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Honoring Our Losses: A Community Memorial Project
October 22, 2020

Honoring Our Losses: A Community Memorial Project

During this tough year, Creative Action is grateful to collaborate with multiple community partners on building outdoor memorials. Each memorial honors the community’s losses – particularly from over the course of the pandemic.  

We will build and display the memorials during the time when many honor Día de los Muertos. We hope to make space for a multicultural commemoration of the people, places, and things we love and miss.

The Losses We Observe

We particularly hope that the memorials honor:

  • Lives lost due to COVID-19
  • Lives lost due to racist violence
  • Other kinds of losses many of us have experienced in this time – loss of connection, routine, predictability, and more.

We invite community members to contribute items one family or household at a time so that everyone stays safe and socially distant. We welcome items that are typically part of Día de los Muertos altars, but anything of personal meaning is welcome.

Creating Your Own Memorial

This has been a season of great loss for so many of us. Would you like to create a memorial in your home, school, or community to honor these losses? Here are some ideas to help guide you.

Choose a Location

Your location could be as small as one shelf, or as large as one or more tables. If you’d like to invite others beyond your household to contribute items, try to find a covered, publicly accessible space outside where you have permission to make something.

Build a Base

If you are making a small memorial on a shelf, this could be as simple as covering the shelf with paper or fabric. For a larger memorial, you could stack boxes or crates on top of and around a table, to create levels. 

The boxes or crates can then be covered with paper, fabric, or – if outdoors – weather-resistant fabric like plastic tablecloths or oilcloth. For publicly accessible memorials, you will most likely want to post some signs describing what the project is about, inviting people to participate, and reminding them to stay socially distant.  It may also be helpful to have paper, pens, and hand sanitizer available, along with a string hanging with clips attached, so that people can write or draw and then hang up pieces of paper.

Contribute Items

There is really no wrong way to decide what to add to the memorial. Whatever feels right to you will be perfect; though you may want to keep a few safety considerations in mind:

  • Avoid open flames if the memorial is not being monitored closely at all times.
  • Contribute only sealed packages of food for outdoor memorials.
  • Be sure to wear masks, practice social distancing, and frequently wash/sanitize hands if you are collaborating on a memorial with people outside of your household.

Here are some item ideas to inspire you:

  1. Get started by:
    • Writing down the names of people, places, or things you miss
    • Drawing pictures of those people, places, and things
    • Finding or making small representations of things you miss; for example, if you really miss going to the movies with your grandparents, you could add some popcorn – a sealed package if the memorial is outdoors
    • Adding flowers, candles (battery-operated if not monitored closely), and other beautiful decorations
  2. Find inspiration in traditional Día de los Muertos altars:
    • Add photos of loved ones you miss – only copies of photos if outdoors, since they could get lost or damaged
    • Bring food and drinks your loved ones enjoyed when they were alive – sealed if outdoors
    • Find items that represent things your loved ones enjoyed when they were alive – like a toy car for a car-lover

If you hope to incorporate additional aspects of traditional Día de los Muertos altars into your memorial, we encourage you to learn from and support anchor Latinx cultural arts institutions in our community like Mexicarte, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC), and City Alchemist, who have worked diligently to honor and nurture these traditions for many, many years.

If you are looking to buy supplies for a Día de los Muertos altar, consider using your buying power to support community guardians of these traditions:

Invite Others to Join and/or Witness

You could invite your family, your friends, your classmates, or even your whole neighborhood to participate or to just take a look. Be sure to remind them to stay safe, and wear masks, and practice social distancing if people from more than one household are looking at a memorial at the same time.

For your convenience, here are printable signs that you are free to download and use on your community altar:

We would love to see photos of what you create! Please consider uploading photos of your memorial to social media, and tag us at:

We will share photos of our community memorials as they grow throughout the week of October 26-November 2.

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