Patrick Murphy Ruiz has died. He was a young man, born in 1967, just a tad over age 50. Close in age to my son. A friend told me he had a heart attack celebrating with family on St. Patrick’s Day.
Patrick Murphy Ruiz was an extraordinary individual who I met eight years ago in San Cristobal de Las Casas when I brought a group and needed a cultural guide. I have worked with him each year since.
I want to pay tribute to the man we just said goodbye to, literally, as our 2019 Chiapas tour ended on March 7. Our last day with Patrick was on Sunday, March 3. On March 5, Patrick had a surgery in Tuxtla Gutierrez to remove varicose veins. I checked in with him via WhatsApp on March 7 to see how he was doing post-operation.
Thank you, Norma. I’m doing fine. I’m recovering and resting.
It took 40 minutes for an ambulance to get to his house after his family made the call.
What I want to talk about is Patrick Murphy Ruiz, the compassionate nephew of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who continued the family commitment to defend and support the indigenous Maya people of Chiapas.
Patrick was a story-teller, a historian, a cultural and political interpreter, with deep knowledge about his country, Mexico and his state, Chiapas. He was so much more than a patient tour guide. He was sensitive to the nuances of life and the needs of others. He embraced people, was helpful and concerned. He was generous of self. Calm and empathetic, filled with energy and inquisitiveness. A source. A resource.
We learned so much from him. We learned the political nuances about the Zapatista movement. We understood the Maya Day of the Dead rituals and spiritual path. We gained a deeper respect for the mystical traditions in the San Juan Chamula church.
I can still feel him sitting next to me on a bench inside this church with no pews, the floor strewn with pine-needles, copal incense clouding the air with smoke and aroma. We are both deep in meditation at the moment. The quiet moments are to be cherished. I will always remember this.
I remember him standing tall under the tall Maya crosses at the Romerillo cemetery. He was like the ancient Cieba tree, strong, an anchor, in perfect symmetry. I hear him explaining the thousands of years of history here, the traditions of burial, the syncretism of the Maya and European cross, why the boards cover the graves and are moved aside to allow the spirits passage from the underworld to visit loved ones for a day. The layers of existence and co-existence and existential thought and respect. Patrick Murphy Ruiz could communicate it all.
I loved Patrick as much as I relied on him. Everyone in our groups felt the same way.
If you read this and knew Patrick, please take a moment to share your own memory in the comments section. Take a moment to say a prayer, light a candle, send Patrick’s spirit out into the world to populate his goodness. His life enriched ours.