CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — At a small home workshop in this Mexican border city, Erendira Guerrero makes teddy bears from the clothing of COVID-19 victims so their relatives have something to hold onto.
Years ago, as Ciudad Juarez suffered jarring levels of violence, Guerrero started making the bears from clothing those victims had worn. The pandemic has created a new population of distraught customers searching for ways to maintain contact with a loved one taken away suddenly.
She estimates she has made about 200 bears for the families of COVID-19 victims.
"Due to COVID-19, many people were left without closure, because they couldn't say goodbye to their family members," Guerrero said. "They need to close the circle. The bears are helping them."
Relatives bring a favorite shirt or other item and Guerrero carefully pins on the patterns for the bear's arms, legs, torso and head. She charges about $30 for a bear and attaches notes that sometimes read, "This is a shirt I used to wear, whenever you hold it know that I am there. Love, Dad."
On Monday, Araceli Ramirez showed a picture of her father wearing the shirt while holding her bear made of the same fabric. Lorenzo Ramirez died so quickly from COVID-19 two months ago that she was unable to say goodbye.
"I can talk to the bear, express what I didn't tell him, and feel like he is with me," she said.