I left work a little early on Friday and stopped along the way to photograph these memorials people leave. It was a lot more dangerous that I thought it would be and I'm not going to even try the ones between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I missed about half of them between Belen and Albuquerque because I couldn't safely pull over and get a picture.

I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years and am glad I was finally able to do it. Perhaps using a motorcycle would be safer or having someone else drive while I try to get the shot as we drive past would work, but this is it for this project.

If anyone has a suggestion or idea on how I could do this safely, please speak up; I'd love to try it.

and now... the pictures

Mile 212 NB
Mile 212 NB

Mile 200 NB
Mile 200 NB

Mile 199 CTR
Mile 199 CTR

Mile 202 CTR
Mile 202 CTR

Mile 203 CTR (2)
Mile 203 CTR (2)

Mile 203 CTR
Mile 203 CTR

Mile 192 NB
Mile 194 NB

Mile 191 NB
Mile 191 NB

Views: 8

Comment by Greg Smith on November 23, 2008 at 7:43pm
I've wanted to do this to. There should be a Roadside Memorial group on Flickr (maybe there is).
Comment by James of al-Barran on November 23, 2008 at 7:51pm
a flickr search for "roadside memorial" came up with 3364 results. there were pix from several states posted with tags and pools named for highways.
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on November 23, 2008 at 8:23pm
More than one member of my family has been memorialized by these roadside tributes. Illegal or not, every time I see one, I pray a silent prayer for the families left behind. James, as a soldier and warrior I am sure you can relate... Thank you .
Comment by James of al-Barran on November 23, 2008 at 8:49pm
It was the sadness of seeing them that made me want to photograph them. They are a reminder to me that real people died there in a, perhaps, horrible way and they were probably very frightened. Then I think of their families and wonder how they were notified. Did a Chaplin or Police officer show up to tell them what happened? I've been through the Casualty Notification Officer/Casualty Affairs Officer training and imagine myself having to knock on a door to tell someone their loved one is dead.

Thanks for your comment Ron and Shawne; perhaps I will try to find a way to keep shooting these until I have them all.

When I took the first picture is looked so dark and sad; I decided to over expose them to make them look brighter, maybe in the spirit their families would want them remembered. (I hope it worked)
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on November 23, 2008 at 11:26pm
Thank you James. Thank you Shawne.
Comment by Sun Dog on November 24, 2008 at 8:48am
Does anyone know the history of these memorials? How long has this been going on and did it start in New Mexico? Way back in the 1970s I saw crosses by the roadside up near Pecos and on some northern mountain roads and I assumed that they were memorials for traffic victims. I mentioned it to someone there and they said that they marked the spot where pall bearers rested on the way to the cemetery. I wonder if that was the origin of the practice.
Comment by Phil_0 on November 24, 2008 at 11:17am
That's exactly right, Sun Dog: descansos ("resting places" in Spanish) were originally erected at the places funeral processions rested as they carried a coffin between the home, the church and the cemetery. Colonial Spanish New Mexico had very few resident priests or full-fledged consecrated churches (the parish church and cemetery for Placitas in the 18th century, for instance, were at San Felipe Pueblo), so a funeral procession could end up being quite a journey. Over the years, descansos have metamorphosized into markers of the place where a tragic death actually occurred, but I'm not sure exactly how that happened.

I hadn't heard it was illegal to erect a descanso, Shawne, but they are, in fact, recognized as cultural properties under state law and therefore subject to the protections accorded those properties. They are supposed to be identified and documented before any project involving state or federal money and the impacts of that project on the descansos have to be identified and mitigated if possible.
Comment by Sarahjmd on November 25, 2008 at 2:47pm
I love this idea. I just came back from a 3week trip to the southeast. These memorials were in all the states I visited. In Mississippi, I was close enough to them to see that the crosses were made of pvc pipe. I had not seen this construction used in NM, so I asked my friend about it. She said they couldn't use wood because termites were so prevalent there. The decor was similar though.

I never saw these memorials when I was growing up in NJ, but I did see them in the more rural areas during my migration trip to NM in 1978, so I don't think it is a hispanic or NM thing at all. If you would like to see an unusual one, walking only, take care and cross over to the NW corner of I-40 and Eubank. A young friend lost his life to a tractor trailer full of ceramic tile there a few years ago, and there is a lovely memorial to him in that spot. Say hello. His name is Chris.
Comment by JMG on March 28, 2010 at 9:45pm
In Mexico there are some pretty ornate descansos, sometimes whole little walk-in chapels. And paintings of La Virgen de Guadalupe on the cliff above. And you really take your life into your hands to try to get pictures of those!


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