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Memory bears find new relevance in time of pandemic

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Demand for memory bears has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: File.

Nelia Braga Méndez began designing and making children’s clothing and costumes in her workshop in 2012.  

When a friend lost her baby, she decided to make her first ”memory bear,” which is made from garment which had belonged to the one who died. 

“The idea started as a way to offer comfort to parents who had lost a child by transforming a piece of clothing or blanket into a teddy bear which they could hold,” Nelia Braga Méndez told Diario de Yucatán.

The work of Nelia Braga Méndez in Mérida, reflects a larger trend that seeks to preserve the memory of individuals young and old who have passed away due to a variety of circumstances. In each case, a blanket or item of clothing from the deceased is used to construct the stuffed animal.

Eréndira Guerrero began a similar project in 2016, which intended to preserve the memory of victims of organized crime in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Eréndira Guerrero calculates that she has made about 200 additional memory bears for families who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19. 

“This bear is so important to me, when my father died I did not have the chance to say goodbye or go through a normal mourning period,” said Araceli Ramírez.

The popularity of mourning bears appears to be growing around the world, with volunteers and companies also popping up in places such as California. However, it would seem the phenomena is not new, as 600 mourning bears were produced in 1912 to comfort children who lost loved ones on the Titanic.

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