Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day of the Dead and HEPAC in Nogales, Sonora

After a 30 mile test ride to see if Eric's ankle had healed, we decided to get back on the road, but first we wanted to visit Nogales, Sonora.  We had worked in Nogales, Sonora with No More Deaths in August and it was great to be back and see some familiar faces.  We also picked an amazing day to be there--Day of the Dead.

Before heading back to our old stomping grounds or checking out the cemetery, we connected with the sister organization for Borderlinks, HEPAC--Hogar de Esperanza y Paz, A.C./ Home for Hope and Peace.

The building where neighborhood kids get lunch everyday!

HEPAC has been around for 33 years, originally as the project of one person, then as the Mexican counterpart of Borderlinks and now, for the last two years, as its own non-profit.  When it was started, the aim was to feed the children in the neighborhood of Bella Vista.  Public school in Mexico is only for half the day, so the kids with class in the morning would eat after school, and the kids with class in the afternoon would go to class with a full stomach.  Located in a poor colonia of Nogales, this project assured that the neighborhood kids were feed one solid meal per day.  This program still exists and like many organzations we have seen, there are different volunteer cooks every day who come to prepare the meals.  (There were no kids the day we visited though, since it was a holiday.)

Mary Cruz showed us around HEPAC

The neighborhood of Bella Vista in Nogales, Sonora
The next project HEPAC took on was building a daycare.  Many of the families in the colonia are only single mothers and this service allowed them greater ability to work.  Then came a women's cooperative, which makes beautiful copper pendants which read No Mas Muertes (not for the organization, just calling for an end to the horrible migrant desert deaths).  The money they earn is split between the women, the HEPAC center, and Nogales organizations that work with migrants.  They also have a community garden, and Mary Cruz, the woman we spoke with, also co-leads educational groups with Borderlinks of Tucson.

Afer visiting HEPAC, we stopped by the Casa de la Culture of Nogales and saw their display of altars for Day of the Dead.

Altar at the Casa de Cultura

I love Day of the Dead.  It is a holiday that I really want to celebrate in my own family.  I love the idea of honoring your ancestors and having this special day devoted to making their favorite foods, telling stories about them and cleaning the site in which they were laid at their death.  Having this day each year to remember and reminesce is a wonderful tradition.

After visiting the cultural center, we headed to the cemetery which was packed with people and surrounded by food and flower vendors.  My favorite were the truckloads of marigolds--so pretty!

I was going to sneak a picture of this beautiful flower stand, but this guy was happy to pose for me!

Yummy sugar skulls!

The Nogales cemetery, bustling with people cleaning and adorning the graves of their loved ones.

Projects in Nogales worth mentioning that offer services to migrants: 
-Kino Border Initiative which is run by Jesuit priests and serves two meals per day to migrants and deportees and has a free clinic and offers educational delegations
-Casa San Juan Bosco, a shelter that offers hospitality to migrants and deportees for 3 days
-No More Deaths, which sets up at a bus station and offers free phone calls to migrants and deportees and documents human rights abuses


  1. Very nice post, thanks for posting the stories and pictures from your Day of the Dead adventure!

  2. i love HEPAC also, great people and a much needed service to the community!