Caring for the Deceased, Caring for the Living

by Bees, Desert Aid worker
from the Winter 2022 newsletter – read it here!

I have mixed feelings about writing this piece about death in the desert. Our organization is named No More Deaths; our stated mission is “to end death and suffering in the Mexico-US borderlands.” Death is central here, I know. But so much has already been written about the US government’s choice to use the desert as a weapon of genocide, and journalists have produced copious portraits of individual volunteers coming across deceased people at the border.

Let me first tell you, if I may, about the delight. Let me tell you about getting my ass kicked in pick-up basketball by teenagers who had been walking through the desert for weeks. Let me tell you about how many times I’ve explained “Yes, you have correctly identified the English word for chicken, but Chicken of the Sea is not, in fact, chicken.” Let me tell you about meeting people who hadn’t had access to clean water in days and telling them (truthfully) that they smelled better than the ragtag crew of punks dropping fresh gallons and food around the Altar Valley.

Let me tell you about a man who had spent nearly a month trying to get through the Sonoran Desert on foot, whose eyes filled with tears when he spoke about the desert because to him the plants, the birds, the sunrises blossoming across the mountains, were all so wonderful. “The desert is beautiful,” he said.

In August, No More Deaths volunteers working around Arivaca found the remains of four recently deceased migrants. Death is central here, and yet none of the longer term volunteers can recall finding so many people in so short a time in this particular corridor. The desert is wonderful and terrible all at once….