America’s Murdered Elders: Day of the Dead

Janet Phelan
Activist Post

The road leading up to the gated city is lined with food and refreshment booths. Other tables feature small, inexpensive toys. Bouquets of flowers are for sale, everywhere. The usual hawkers-for-donations circulate through the throngs, Red Cross dominating the polite requesters for money, young men in white shirts shaking their red and white containers at passersby. I drop in a few pesos.

You walk through these gates, however, and you enter another world. It is a gated compound, the city of the dead in San Cristobal de las Casas. Today, the doors to the tiny houses are flung open. Relatives sit on the small porches and share lunch, their faces gentled and softened. Candles flicker on the inside of the crypts. Through a door, I see one of the crypts has a bed in its spacious interior. It is empty.

Yellow and orange bouquets line the streets, bloom in the window boxes of the tiny houses and are extravagantly strewn on top of the smaller gravesites. Children squeal as they race between the houses. Their parents have brought special food, in remembrance of the residents of this city. Someone has left an uncorked bottle of champagne in front of one of the houses. You might think this was homecoming, or even Thanksgiving.

Last night, white crosses were laid out in the Center Square of the city, in remembrance of those killed in the Zapatista uprising. Each cross bore the name and age of the individual remembered. One cross was for a girl, age nineteen. Another cross was for a child, eight years old when the bullet stopped his breath.

Today, the rain has paused and the sun shines down on the festivities in the gated city. My tears are flowing freely now and I am unable to thwart them. I have no loved one here; I have no loved one.

Buried side by side in a manicured cemetery in Riverside County, her grave bears no marker. I cannot visit her there, my tears will not ever fall on American soil. Her name was Amalie, she was dark haired and amber eyed. She loved immoderately and with absolute conviction. Even the neighborhood strays knew there would always be food at her door. She was only one of many struck down in the fullness of her years, robbed of the comforts of kin, ripped from her home and hidden from her own daughter and my tears are no longer silent, a cry rises in my throat and the names are rushing out

Amalie Phelan
Elizabeth Fairbanks
Sylvia Bush
Raymond Horspool
Corinne Bramson

And there will be no memorial for America’s murdered elders, no day of mourning for those killed by their rapaciously greedy guardians, there will be no day carved out in time where we, the sons and daughters of murdered parents, can come together, bring flowers and their favorite chocolate brownies and sit with the others and bask in the tendrils of beauty they left behind. We have been silenced, too.

The clock is spinning wildly, round and round. What drives this world has gone amok, the esoteric blend of blood and money and I say the clock must stop. Not one more murdered child in Chiapas, not one more murdered mother in Riverside.

These tiny houses cast their shadows. I pick my way through the darkness of the day, through the memories of flowers, back to the city of the living, where I still claim a foothold. The cats are waiting in the garden when I get home and I fill their dishes. It is the very best I can think to do.

Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad.  You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at

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