In the United States, the tradition of placing crosses, also known as descansos, seems to have originated with early Hispanic settlers in the southwestern states. Descanso is from the Spanish verb descansar "to (have a) rest."
According to Wikipedia, decades ago Arizona State Highway Patrol would place white crosses at sites of fatal car accidents to encourage safe driving. Now it is usually family or friends of the victims who put up and maintain these markers off to the sides of roads in honor of their loved ones. Roadside memorials are found in many states but are banned in Colorado, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. They are allowed in California for a fee of $1000.
This memorial sculpture on Sabino Canyon Road near Cloud Road is for two 17 year old males who died late one night when the car they were traveling in crashed into a tree in the landscaped median. This part of the tribute is near the bus bench on the side of the road.
And these rusted metal crosses and small tile shrine mark the place in the middle of the road where the teens died.
This blue cross on Sunrise Drive west of Sabino Canyon stands at the site where an 18 year old motorcyclist was killed. Candles and a yellow glass rose are among the objects found here.
If you click on the picture below, you can read some of the sentiments painted on the cross.
The following one located on Sabino Canyon Road south of Sunrise Drive is "close to home" literally and figuratively. The memorial is at the base of the nearest telephone pole.
A 50 year old woman (my age) was walking her dog early one morning on the dirt shoulder of the road, when they were both struck by a car driven by a drunk driver.
Dog toys and bones, silk flowers, a clay angel sculpture and a rolled up newspaper are among the mementos placed at the site.
Roadside crosses are not without controversy. Some say that they are Christian and therefore violate the separation of church and state. Others point out that they are not religious statements but rather vernacular traditions to honor the dead. I find them fascinating and touching, and feel that they help raise awareness about road safety.
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