Remembering the Dead: Local human rights advocates join pilgrimage in memory of migrants who died in Brooks County
ALFURRIAS — A torch lit from the flame kept inside the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531, made its way through South Texas this weekend.
Alejandro Zuniga, who carried the torch across the border from Nuevo Laredo on Thursday, was welcomed by dozens of human rights advocates singing Catholic hymns as they joined him in the last stretch before reaching Falfurrias about 5 p.m. Saturday.
“Ay que ser atrevidos, y dedicados a dar la vida (We must be bold and dedicated to giving life),” they sang as they marched east on the south side of Highway 285. “Pueblo libre que vas caminando, por las aguas de la vida (Free people that walk by the waters of life).”
Zuniga has been carrying the torch for the past 14 years as it travels more than 4,000 miles, handed from one runner to another, ending in New York City. This is the fifteenth year of the annual pilgrimage known as The Guadalupe Torch Run organized by the Tepeyac Association of New York.
“We are here celebrating the unity of one people across the border,” Zuniga said in Spanish while holding the four-foot metal torch. “It is important because it builds awareness and every year there’s more and more of us who make consciousness about issues surrounding the dignity of immigrants.”
The stop in Falfurrias also coincided with the two-year anniversary of the South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC). The center is responsible for maintaining 100 water barrels in Brooks and Jim Hogg counties for the countless immigrants who travel through the brush, avoiding checkpoints and detection from federal authorities.
Eduardo Canales, director of STHRC, held the torch high as the group of about 30 arrived at the center located across the street from the Brooks County Courthouse. Everyone convened at the courthouse lawn, adorned with banners and 45 white crosses.
“We are here to remember 45 people that have been found and perished here in Brooks County from Nov. 1, 2014 to the present day,” Canales said. “Each one of these crosses signifies them and we want to remember them because this tragedy shouldn’t happen.”
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