Along the roadsides of Southwestern United States and Mexico, roadside memorials mark the place where people have died. Spanish-speakers call them descansos, which means “resting place.” More and more, this concept has spread across the United States. We speed past these markers to routine engagements without paying much attention to the crosses, faded flowers, and mementos of lives that ended abruptly. Maybe they grab our attention, but we don’t even slow down—we just wonder what happened and resolve to give our loved ones a hug on the way out the door next time.
I decided to stop and take a closer look, to see these memorials up close. I was fascinated by the decorations, the combinations of faded and vibrant colors and the work put into their creation. These public shrines, built out of love and grief, are beautiful examples of folk art. I feel connected to them through their aesthetic display, but much more I connect with them on a human level. We all navigate through life, we all experience loss and we all are a part of those who came before us and those we will leave behind.
I recognize that I am an outsider. Although these roadside shrines are in public places they represent a private and sacred relationship between loved ones and this piece of earth. I have tried to be respectful of that bond while showing others the artful and poetic beauty I find in descansos. Life is full of dangerous curves. Sometimes our journey becomes interrupted, too fast and too soon.
Hey Jody – fascinating project and beautiful work. Nice job! There was a bill proposed here in CA to eliminate the desconsos because they are considered hazardous (ironic!) by requiring the state to erect official signs instead. It was not signed into law.
Hmmmm, I still really like the Boo and Dragonfly photo!