Travelers in Hiding

On Tuesday I went on assignment for the Harvard Gazette to the Radcliffe Institute, where I heard MacArthur Award-winning journalist for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books Alma Guillermoprieto speak about her establishment of, an online Día de los Muertos-style altar to honor the lives of 72 migrant workers massacred in Mexico in the summer of 2010.

It was a dark day in Mexican history, but the altar brought together worldwide voices to commemorate the men and women who had risked their life along the treacherous train ride through Mexico known as la bestia — the beast.

The still-unsolved mass murder is believed to be connected to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, which has claimed more than 50,000 lives.

It was an honor to hear Alma Guillermoprieto speak, and it was moving to hear about what people will risk for even a chance at a better life. Visit the online altar.

An excerpt:

The online altar has multiplied in many ways, Guillermoprieto said. It’s inspired theater productions, books, and, last year, on the first anniversary of the massacre, Radio UNAM, the station of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, presented a dramatic reading by famous actors of the site’s testimonials.

“Perhaps this is the main reason why the altar in its various manifestations has lasted so long,” said Guillermoprieto, “because they’re proof that Mexico still is a country where, against all the odds, acts of generosity and decency and solidarity and inspiration remain not only possible but constant, so the altar has become a place of encouragement, and not just of mourning.”

Read the full story here.

Alma Guillermoprieto. Photo by Scott Eisen