Sunday, December 20th is a day that my community, and my host family in specific will remember for the rest of their lives. It was the day a dark shadow was cast over Magdalena, it was the day two of its beloved members brutally lost their lives.
Sunday was a day like any other. In the morning I went to Magdalena’s weekly market, bought some fruits and vegetables, and then returned home to start making a salad to share with my host family at lunch later that day. After washing and chopping up the lettuce, I added the tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and added some chopped mango and apple for an extra kick and dressed it with lemon juice and chia seeds. We had ceviche with camote (sweet potatoe) for lunch that day. Vegetables aren’t really a big thing here so I was pleased when three of my host family members at least tried the salad I had made.
After lunch I was catching up on some work at the dining room table and my host family was doing some work of their own. My host brother was watching his usual cartoons, and my host sister, who was home for the holidays, was on her phone. Everything was tranquil and quiet. Then one of my host cousins walked in and that all quickly changed. “There’s been an accident” she exclaimed in desperation. Her facial expression said it all. It was bad. Really bad.
She proceeded to tell us that my host aunt Selena’s mom, Hilda and her sister-in-law, Flor had been hit by a bus.
They were standing on the side of the road in front of their house when it happened. The bus hit them at full speed and Flor, who was 46 with three young children, was killed on the scene. “Her body was crushed between the bus and the cement wall of her house,” she gasped. “There’s blood everywhere…body parts are strewn all over the road…her heart, severed beating outside her body… ” her voice trailed off. In the distance I could make out the faint sound of an ambulance. Hilda died later that night in the hospital.
For the next three days, a wake was held at in the lobby of the civic center. Family members and friends gathered in large groups to sit with Hilda and Flor. Due to the severity of the accident, and the damage caused to the bodies, their caskets remained closed. Some people sang, others just watched.
On Wednesday a large procession took place in their honor. I walked along with my host family and community members as they carried the coffins to the church where a special mass was held, followed by the burial in the town cemetery. There were some people taking pictures, and for a moment I myself considered taking a photo of the event, but I thought it would be better not to, and also saw it as disrespectful. People were in so much grief; it just wasn’t something I wanted to capture. When it came time for the burial, a heavy rain began pouring down which further contributed to the melancholy of the afternoon.