Two cross-border communities united at a border fence to remember those who have died attempting to migrate to the United States.
Nearly one thousand people came together at the chain-linked fence that divides Sunland Park, New Mexico and Anapra, Mexico, a small town outside of Ciudad Juarez. A Catholic Mass was said Wednesday to remember the deceased on the “Day of the Dead.”
“We’re telling them that they are not alone in their suffering and their pain,” said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of the Diocese of Las Cruces.
I think this Mass is a good symbol of humanity coming together to say ‘we want unity.'
Bishops and priests from the Catholic Dioceses of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and El Paso, Texas concelebrated the Mass.
“Even though it’s being separated by an international boundary, really it signifies one alter,” said Illiana Holguin, executive director for the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, an immigration legal services program in El Paso.
An alter from the U.S. and Mexico joined at the divide of the border fence.
Holguin said every year over 500 people die attempting to cross the U.S./Mexican border. The migrants, many who remain unidentified, die due to extreme heat in the desert, or other conditions.
Sunland Park, N.M. neighbors El Paso, Texas. The border fence remained under close watch of United States Border Patrol agents throughout the service.
The Mass also invited reflection and prayer for those who are suffering due to the ongoing violence sparked by drug cartels in Mexico.
“I think this Mass is a good symbol of humanity coming together to say ‘we want unity,’” said Tracy Kemme, an associate in volunteer ministry for the Sisters of Charity in Anthony, New Mexico, who attended the Mass in Sunland Park.
Kemme told Fox News Latino that last year she attended the Mass on the Mexican side of the border.
“On this side I was with the Americans who we have all these opportunities and we live in a land of prosperity, where over there I sort of felt the struggle of the fence being a block to something you can’t have.”
Kemme said she walked away from the Mass with a sense of hope.
The Bishops offered people attending the service to give each other a sign of peace. That united hundreds of people from both sides of the border to meet at the fence.
Jean Ponder Soto, an El Paso native and professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University and the Tepeyac Insitute in El Paso, said she felt much sentiment during the offering. Her hands were joined through the fence with an elderly Mexican woman’s hands.
“We were crying because we were sad because we were separated, but we were also crying for joy because we recognize how much we love one another and nothing can change that.”
Bishop Ramirez said he and other Catholic leaders believe in unity, but they also advocate the need to keeping borders secure.
“We believe every nation has the right to control its immigration. But on the other hand, they still have to be compassionate.”
There must be mercy and the United States has a history of doing that, he added.
The first Day of the Dead Mass was celebrated in 1999.