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The Corrales Village Council just supported a designated COVID memorial for New Mexicans at its Sept. 27 session.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Corrales resident Eleanor Bravo’s only sister, Desi, died of the disease at age 76. The Bravo family—parents and three sisters—had immigrated to the US from Manila in 1950. 

Retired from her career running a doctor’s office, Desi lived in Kansas City, and had recently had a knee replacement. She fell, was sent to rehab center and there became infected. There were no vaccines at the time and no masks. Desi was intubated and died of a heart attack. The family was unable to hold a funeral or memorial service for Desi Bravo until this year. 

This sad story and others like it became common across the U.S. and led Kristin Urquiza of Arizona, whose father Mark died of the disease, to create Marked By Covid, now a nonprofit committed to creating memorials across the country to remember those killed by the virus. Each memorial, large or small, will be linked by Augmented Reality–a mourner can type in a deceased’s name, see the person’s face and read something about them.

Marked by Covid explains: “COVID has failed to enter national consciousness as 9/11 did, primarily because there are no images that constitute a shared experience – no visuals exist that characterize the quiet, painful isolation which is the nature of the loss. The memorial project aims to create that shared imagery, to give faces and names to individuals who are presently mere statistics. Recognition and acknowledgement that pain from COVID loss is real and loved ones mattered are essential to collective healing.”

Bravo is one activist behind the New Mexico venture, which already has received a one-acre plot. Bravo is an ongoing supporter of helping in particular the elderly and people less familiar with technology to navigate the web in order to find vaccines, get tested and be as informed as possible about COVID. She also pushes the appropriate legislation.

Another major volunteer is Janeth Nuñez del Prado of Albuquerque, whose father Hugo was due to fly to the U.S. for the vaccine he could not obtain in Bolivia. He died of COVID in 2021. A major push to declare a National COVID Memorial Day is on the agenda, along with the memorials.

As an official document puts it: “Since June of 2021, Marked By Covid NM has been working on a permanent COVID-19 Memorial in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Principal contributors are artist Marcos Lutyens, Bernalillo County Parks Recreation & Open Space dedicated staff and local landscape architect Ken Romig, veteran designer of a number of  New Mexico memorials. Thanks to the State Land Commissioner, the designated site is on public trust land in the South Valley, bordered by the Rio Grande Valley, mountainous terrain and our bosque.”

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