Honoring Trans Lives: The Mausoleum Tiresias on Día de Muertos in Mexico City

In the heart of Mexico City, amidst the vibrant and somber celebrations of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), there stands a place of profound significance – the Mausoleum Tiresias. This mausoleum, inaugurated in mid-September, is the first burial site dedicated to trans women in Mexico and represents a monumental step towards recognizing and honoring their lives.

A Safe Haven for Trans Women

Día de Muertos: The altar for trans people in Mexico City - Los Angeles Times

The Mausoleum Tiresias is named after "Casa de las Muñecas Tiresias," an organization founded by Kenya Cuevas, a transgender rights activist. Kenya Cuevas, who became an activist in 2016 after her friend Paola Buenrostro, a transgender sex worker, was tragically killed, fought relentlessly for a dignified resting place for trans women. This mausoleum is the realization of that dream.

Providing Dignity in Death

With space for 149 women, the mausoleum serves as a dignified resting place for trans women, many of whom were victims of hate crimes. Regardless of the cause of death, this sanctuary offers a place of reparation, recognizing their identities and memories.

"I think this space is going to be a place for denunciation, a place of visibility, but also a place of learning," Cuevas said.

Casa Hogar "Paola Buenrostro": A Shelter and Support

Casa Refugio Paola Buenrostro in Mexico City - YouTube

Casa Hogar "Paola Buenrostro" plays a significant role in preventing the killings of trans women. This shelter not only offers safety to trans women but also provides support to vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees. It provides housing, healthcare for those living with HIV/AIDS, and reintegration opportunities for individuals struggling with homelessness or those released from prison.

Luisa Martínez Galdámez, the coordinator of Casa Paola, highlights the challenges they face – discrimination in employment and a lack of respect for their gender identity. Despite these challenges, they remain determined in their fight for equality.

Advocating for Change

Cuevas is also at the forefront of advocating for the legal classification of transfemicides as hate crimes. In a stark revelation, Mexico has become the second deadliest country in Latin America for transgender people, following Brazil. In 2022, the country recorded at least 87 violent deaths of LGBTQ+ people, with at least 48 of those cases involving trans women, according to the organization Letra S.

Survivors’ Stories

The residents of Casa Hogar "Paola Buenrostro" have stories that reflect the struggles they’ve faced. Many endured exclusion, social stigma, and abandonment by their families, leaving them with few options to survive. They often suffered physical and sexual abuse from relatives, clients, or even authorities.

Darian Gasca, a 19-year-old trans man, shares a harrowing experience. He fled his home in central Mexico after his father subjected him to brutal violence, demanding that he dress as a woman. His story is a testament to the resilience of trans individuals who defy adversity.

Commemorating Loved Ones

During Día de Muertos, the residents of Casa Hogar "Paola Buenrostro" prepare to attend a collective ofrenda (offering) in honor of victims of hate crimes, including Buenrostro. These powerful expressions of remembrance and resilience highlight the importance of recognizing and honoring the lives of trans individuals.

As we celebrate Día de Muertos in Mexico City, the Mausoleum Tiresias and Casa Hogar "Paola Buenrostro" remind us of the importance of dignity, respect, and equality for all, even in death.

"They wanted me dead, but I’m still alive," Daniela explained about her choice of makeup. "I may be dead inside, but outside, I’m still alive."

Día de Muertos: The altar for trans people in Mexico City stands as a symbol of hope and a call for change in a society where trans individuals continue to face immense challenges and violence. It’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder that every life deserves recognition and respect, even beyond the grave.

The Significance of the Mausoleum Tiresias in Mexico City’s Celebration of Día de Muertos

What is a Día de los Muertos Altar?

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a multi-day holiday celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America to honor loved ones who have passed away. An essential element of this tradition is the altar, or "ofrenda," meticulously prepared by families and communities. These altars serve as a vivid and heartfelt way to remember and pay homage to the deceased. They are adorned with a captivating array of items, including marigold flowers (cempasúchil), candles, and papel picado (elaborate paper decorations). Each of these elements holds special meaning, and the ofrenda is a place where the living connect with the souls of the departed. It’s a beautiful and profound representation of the blend of indigenous and Catholic traditions that defines this unique celebration.

Who are the Mexicans celebrating Día de los Muertos?

On Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is celebrated throughout Mexico and much of the Americas on November 1 and 2, Mexicans pay heartfelt tributes to a diverse array of cherished individuals, including parents, great grandparents, and even beloved pets like dogs such as Indi. This unique and deeply rooted tradition offers a touching opportunity for Mexicans to honor and remember those who have passed away, embracing the memories and connections they hold dear.

Why do people gather in front of an altar in Mexico?

In Mexico, people come together in front of altars for various poignant reasons. One such occasion was the aftermath of Mexico’s September 19 earthquake. On November 1, 2017, they congregated to honor the victims at the site of a collapsed building in Mexico City. These altars, known as ofrendas, are a central element of the Day of the Dead tradition. They serve as sacred spaces where individuals pay their respects, express their love, and remember those who have departed, creating a powerful connection between the living and the deceased.

What does the Day of the Dead smell like in Mexico?

In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a sensory experience that immerses you in a symphony of scents and sensations. It’s a celebration that smells like cempasuchil flowers and copal incense, filling the air with their sweet fragrances. The atmosphere is vibrant, teeming with a rich tapestry of sounds and colors, and the essence of the occasion is further enhanced by the presence of photos, candles, and music adorning the surroundings. Skilled artisans meticulously prepare altars that pay homage to their ancestors, creating an enchanting ambiance that appeals to all the senses.

What is the significance of the Mausoleum Tiresias in Mexico City’s Día de Muertos?

Nestled behind a black door adorned with stained glass circles, the Mausoleum Tiresias holds profound significance as the first burial site dedicated to trans women in Mexico. This poignant sanctuary, inaugurated in mid-September, is an embodiment of resilience and remembrance. It bears the name of "Casa de las Muñecas Tiresias," an organization that provides support to trans individuals and sex workers, and the very entity that initiated the establishment of this mausoleum. Its significance lies in offering a dignified resting place for trans women, many of whom were victims of hate crimes. Regardless of the cause of death, the Mausoleum Tiresias stands as a place of reparation, recognition, and a powerful symbol of inclusion during Día de Muertos.

Can you legally change your gender in Mexico?

In a progressive step, Mexican nationals now have the legal right to change their gender identity as reflected on their birth certificates. This pivotal development empowers individuals to align their legal documentation with their gender identity, promoting inclusivity and affirming the rights of transgender and non-binary citizens.

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