What Mourning Looks Like in Monterey Park

In the wake of a mass shooting on Lunar New Year Eve, an essay about the multiethnic and multiracial histories of Monterey Park published by Zócalo Public Square.

Photo by author

On a radiantly sunny afternoon in late January, I visited the parking lot of Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park. It had been less than a week since a gunman killed 11 people there ranging in age from 57 to 76, many of them regulars who were there to celebrate Lunar New Year Eve. Eleven altars featuring portraits of the victims had been placed against the brick wall of the studio, along with traditional funeral wreaths draped in white sashes (“Exact Tax Inc.,” “Boys and Girls Club of the West San Gabriel Valley”). Buddhist monks clad in saffron robes chanted sutras in front of a table set with 11 plastic trays of rice and vegetables, and 11 bottles of water: sustenance for each person who died. The earthy-sweet scent of burning incense sticks filled the air. It all momentarily transported me to my grandparents’ funerals in Taiwan, my uncle’s funeral in Arizona. For so many of us with roots in North and Southeast Asia and its diasporas, this is how mourning looks, smells, and feels.

Read the full essay here.