Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

rising above The Grief.

Byline: Story by Guillermo Contreras *Photographs by Rose Palmisano *Of the Journal

Contributions from New Mexicans ease the burdensof Chiapas families who lost loved ones in a 1999 crash on I-40

COMITAN DE DOMINGUEZ, Chiapas, Mexico Friends and relatives of Jesus Alonso Garcia Lopez knelt on the frigid earth before his grave and prayed as a chilly wind picked up, dropping the temperature to near freezing.

"All our days here are gifts from God," said Manuel Moreno Hernandez, who led the prayer.

"Jesus Alonso and the others in the accident paid their dues to God," he said. "But what's certain is everyone pays their dues eventually. What hurts us is that we leave this place one by one and not all at once."

Garcia took a deadly ride through New Mexico, when the van he and 16 others were in slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer rig on Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque on Dec. 4, 1999. The group was headed to farm jobs in Kentucky and Florida.

Garcia and 10 other undocumented workers from Chiapas were killed, along with the van's two drivers. Four survived.

"It's been a year of suffering, crying and desperation," said Flor Garcia Vazquez, Garcia's widow, who organized a novena, or nine days of prayer and condolence the last at the cemetery to remember and honor her husband.

"But I know God wants us to push forward. He'll illuminate the way."

Earlier this year, New Mexicans donated $53,000 to help the survivors and relatives of those who died in the crash after a Journal series told their stories. Nearly all of the money reached those who needed it.

Most received nearly $3,000, according to the Albuquerque Border City Project, the now-defunct nonprofit group that set up the victims' fund. Some were given a bigger share because donors asked that their donations be provided to specific families. …

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