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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Todos Santos

A chorus of pan flutes are playing behind me, with a drum beating so loud that it rattles my bones. The vibration feels like home. In front of me, my family mutters prayers with their heads slightly angled downward. In front of them is a wall with square shaped indents. Within these indents are flowers and pictures of people, people who have most likely passed away. And I conclude that this wall that I stand in front of must be a wall of alters. It is in this moment with drums beating, my family praying, and hundreds of people squirming around where I stand that I feel alive. Ironic since this is the day of the dead, but maybe the best way to honor those who have passed is to keep on living. To take each step for the people who have passed away because you carry them with you when you walk forward.

In the United States, someone else’s death felt like someone ripped a piece of me away. In Bolivia with this tradition, it feels like I am whole. We fear death in the states and we don’t talk about it. This tradition makes death feel so real, and yet, there is deep comfort that comes with it. I would like to honor the dead for the rest of my life.