February 20, 2011 by: Ben Heimsath

Chapa House Memorial - Robert T. Martinez Street

Memorial For Celia Chapa - placed in front, near the gate.

In many neighborhoods, families go to great lengths to decorate for the season.  Christmas and Halloween are great excuses to break out an assortment of lights, and ornaments.  But our society doesn't have a way to share other family experiences, particularly sad ones.  This memorial shares a family's grief for a loved-one lost.

 House Memorial with Bright Colors and Flowers

I noticed the Chapa Memorial in front of an otherwise unremarkable house late last year.  This family has made a suddenly sacred site right at their front gate.  Maybe this is an extension of the tradition of a home altar.  In this predominantly Hispanic area, many households have a devotional place that includes photos of departed loved ones.  But these places are typically in a quiet place inside.  This memorial is right on the street.

 House Memorial Detail

To pass by as a visitor is to share, even briefly, with this family's experience.  It makes me wonder what it must be like to come home to this house.  Is it a comfort to see the photos, the cross, the flowers?  Does it help prepare for entering a house without a mother or wife?

House Memorial cross 


I imagine each family member gets something positive from passing the memorial.  They must know that they are not alone, since they are sharing their grief with any and everyone.   Even if we didn't know her in life, we all participate in keeping Celia Chapa's memory. 

Suddenly Sacred/ Memorial