NEW YORK – New York bid farewell to 250 Mexican “heroes” in a heartfelt ceremony at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, before the remains of COVID-19 victims in the city were transferred to their native country on a Mexican military plane, marking the largest repatriation in its history.
“Thanks to these 250 heroes, who are known as front liners, this city continued to function,” the Mexican consul in New York, Jorge Islas Lopez, who traveled to Mexico with the urns, said at the ceremony on Saturday.
“They were workers who were in the first line of defense (…), whether preparing food in restaurant kitchens, working in construction, cleaning hospitals. They were the invisible and anonymous heroes who allowed all New Yorkers to stay home, and that cost us a lot, it cost us lives,” he said.
The short ceremony, officiated by Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was attended by some hundred relatives, wearing masks and gloves, who prayed in front of the 250 urns containing the ashes of the deceased.
Following the condolences by Dolan, who repeatedly underlined the importance of the Mexican community in New York and the example of faith they have given, the archbishop also expressed his sympathies to the relatives who will receive the remains in Mexico.
“I send you our love and sympathy. These good people have become part of our home and family, but they never forgot you in Mexico,” Dolan stressed.
A group of mariachis performed several traditional songs such as “Mexico Lindo y Querido” or “La Golondrina,” during the ceremony, where only a single relative for each deceased was allowed due to social distancing measures.
The Mexican consul, meanwhile, sought to underline the sense of “responsibility” that characterizes the Mexican people.
“We Mexicans are people dedicated to working, we are productive people, we are honest people. And there are those who riffed it to keep this city working,” Islas Lopez told the media.
One such “hero” was 65-year-old Amelia Mendez Vivar, who died on April 12 from a heart attack caused by coronavirus after more than two weeks in a hospital.
Amelia had been living in New York for 25 years, working as domestic help.
“It was on March 28 that my mom got unwell in the house, she was taken in an ambulance, they wouldn’t let me go with her. Do you know how painful it is to see your mom go and not see her anymore? I never imagined it was going to be the last time I was going to see her,” her daughter Lina Mendez told EFE.
Mendez said when they began to hear about the coronavirus in China, they never thought it would come to the US so soon, and urged the rest of her countrymen to take care of their health and heed the measures imposed to check the spread of the disease.
“She had been here for over 20 years. She had dreams of returning to Mexico, but not like that, not in ashes. She didn’t want to be cremated, she wanted to be buried,” she broke into tears. “I lost my pillar, my mother. She was my everything.”
The 250 urns, guarded by the Mexican consul and his team, left from New York aboard a Mexican Air Force plane after the ceremony, according to sources from the consulate.