DESCANSOS : : ROADSIDE MEMORIALS
Every day, this sign - this 'descanso' - (Spanish for 'place of rest') along the highway
of Florida call to me and draws my attention.
Along many highways, modern day 'descansos' stand as symbols for life, death and remembrance.
These nondescript "Drive Safely" signs are shrines to not only express the loss of a loved one who died in a vehicular accident, but to draw our attention to
the tragedy that has occurred.
I used to think that Drunk Drivers were the main
cause of these accidents. But they only account for 15%, while distracted drivers and careless drivers are taking too many lives
- In 2004 that was approx 30%.
In the early pioneer days, the American settlers used descansos to mark the sites where
pioneers, killed in Indian ambushes, lost their lives in their journey. The descansos were created to remind people to pray for
the deceased but also to warn future travelers about Indian
In today's secular society, there is a lot of
controversy over these signs. And a lot of people are confronted
by them. I
don't want that to continue. Yes, these descansos can be confrontational
and a daily reminder of death. But what are they confronting us
with? Our own mortality? Yes, life goes on, but there is still a strong need to mark the place where the loss occurred
- mainly to let the public know - help them avoid experiencing
such a tragedy.
"a man's dying is more the survivor's
affair than his own"
- Thomas Mann
because these are tragic deaths, where the individual was yank out of this earth and was not allowed a natural death. This sign marks the very place where their journey in life was interrupted.
The point where they crossed from light to shadow. The friends/family had this
sign erected by the state as a private need to commemorate the actual place of loss. But also these signs are a public
manifestation of life - a constant reminder for us - not to forget that the person commemorated, lived a life of significance.
- Only we did not get a chance to know them, yet!
For years I drove by this "Drive Safely" sign feeling drawn to
it. Always wondering why the state placed these logo, but - sad
to say - never taking the time to realize that a life was lost
here. All I did was wonder what they were promoting -
until one day.
I was drawn to a spot that had (4) markers. Why
would the state place four of the same exact markers in the same
spot? I had to pull over & when I approached them I saw the
names of each individual on each marker, I broke down & cried.
This was a family! A mother, father & two children. But the most impactful thing was that the markers were decorated with lots of
flowers. Each had pictures and notes attached - which I dare not
read - but whose unspoken words touched my soul.
Each spoke of a
loved one left behind to put up flowers; to get the markers
placed; to write about the loss of a loved one.
I can no longer just drive by these markers without
death's door was opened here.
SO WHERE TO NOW?
Little did I know that, thru these Descansos, life was calling
to me. Every fiber of
these shrines talks of life. Life lost, but most importantly -
lives lived; lives left behind. I need to celebrate life! To
commemorate their life and to honor the life of their families
left with this memory.
For this reason, the following community projects were created to raise awareness to the
growing numbers of fatalities. To assist the
families in their healing process.
Human suffering happens, but does not need to be an enduring
part of our live. It does not need to be the cross that we bear for life.
The intent is to unite families, who have lost a loved one,
with artists who will paint their
The artist will create a painting, sculpture or
mural that would take the victims' story / narrative and give it a life of
its own - outside of the victim.
The idea behind this project is to allow the family to verbalize
the loss. Only by expressing their grief can their
anger towards the events be released; the resentment towards the
perpetrator can be expressed & the memory of their loved one
can be honored in a new life in the artist's work.
The story of what happened no longer needs to
eat you up inside. It will now live in the painting.
Each artistic expression
will be created to uniquely express each family's experience and
the artist's own interpretation of the narrative.
All the paintings and
sculptures will be unified as a public exhibit to
express - loudly - to the general public, the issue of roadside
fatalities; the lives lost and the families left behind to deal
with the loss.
extension of the Painted Memories project.
The intent of this project is to create paintings of the stories
experienced by the Children of 911.
This project, will express the loss experienced by the children
and families who lost a loved one in the tragic events of Sept
We will never forget!
The families have a need to keep the loss in the
public eye. Mostly so that this tragedy does not occur to
The message is extremely important to the
So what I would like to achieve is to create a memory
garden along the public highway.
I want the State of Florida to create a permanent, unified
memorial at the rest area of the Florida Turnpike's Service
A place where each individual is remembered and
expressed in context with our society. I want to have a place
where each and every life will not be forgotten about. I want a
place where the public will have a chance to know the life lived
by your loved one.
These three projects are a way to put meaning into my life journey and
people and the communities that impact my existence. These projects
are not intended to
rehash the accident or how it happened. It is not intended to
bring to the forefront death and tragedies. It is a way to express to
society what our life becomes the day after losing a loved one. What we, as a society, are
experiencing and allowing to happen to our humanity. It is a way
the impact on those left to deal with such a tragedy.
I want to
express the loss, but most importantly - the legacy left behind.
The mothers and fathers; brothers and sisters; husbands,
wives and children; the parents and grandparents left to deal
with the loss of their offspring.
These projects are intended to show these families that people
care. I care and want to impact my community. But most of all I
want to express...
I believe in the possibility of
& relief from human suffering
for my roadway neighbors on this journey we call life.
falling from my eyes -
reaching out to others,
can I lift a fallen spirit.
Pablo Solis -