PUEBLA, Mexico — The cremated remains of Mexicans who died of COVID-19 in New York lay on a platform in neat rows, wrapped in black cloth and each topped by a single white rose.
Government workers in masks, plastic face guards and gloves handled the containers with care, as a green, white and red Mexican flag fluttered from a pole in a public square. Mariachi musicians performed songs honoring the dead.
That was the scene Monday in the central Mexican city of Puebla, capital of the state of the same name, as 105 Mexican immigrants whose remains were flown back to the country over the weekend were mourned in their native state.
About 20 families sat beneath a tent outside the marigold, colonial-era governor’s house for the ceremony.
Jorge Islas, Mexico’s consul general in New York, who accompanied the victims’ remains on a Mexican air force, described the dead as individuals who worked hard so that later generations might be better off. A number of them were front-line workers in the pandemic, he said, “migrant heroes” who toiled to make sure there was food and medicine in New York, or cleaning and disinfecting hospitals.
“I want to tell you that even though they are now in Mexico today, in New York they leave a legacy,” Islas said.
Many Mexican immigrants in the New York metro region come from Puebla city and state. Mounted on the building’s wall, a sign with a black ribbon listed the names of dozens of “poblanos who died in the tri-state area” from the coronavirus.
Before they were repatriated, the ashes were blessed along with those of some 150 other Mexicans in a ceremony at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
Puebla authorities began handing over ashes Monday to families living locally; people from other municipalities were to receive them progressively in the coming days.