Descansos is a project I have been working on for over 10 years now and have started printing. I was first drawn to Descansos or roadside markers when I lived in Utah. They were not as prolific at the time as they are here in Texas and in New Mexico.
The custom of marking the site of a death on the highway has deep roots in the Hispanic culture of the Southwest, where these memorials are often referred to as Descansos(“resting places”).
Traditionally, Descansos were memorials erected at the places where the funeral procession paused to rest on the journey between the church and the cemetery. The association thus created between the road, the interrupted journey, and death as a destination, eventually found expression in the practice of similarly marking the location of fatal accidents on the highway.
At this time I have over 80 sites recorded from California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii. I use the Military Grid Reference System to notate location of the Descansos and the MGRS serves as the title for the images. I usually record more than one image at each location and in making prints of the site I am only selecting one image from the location for display currently.
The Descansos can be quite ornate to very simple and are heart rending when reading some o
f the inscriptions left by the family and friends. Most disappear after a year as the family moves on and forgets to care for the marker or they are destroyed by weather or highway upkeep.
Here are the first of the images I am starting to display and eventually show.