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Tuesday , December 11 2018
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Home | Tag Archives: dia de los muertos

Tag Archives: dia de los muertos

The Wondering Latina: Día de los Muertos and Remembering Mexico City

One of the (many) beautiful things about Día de los Muertos is, how it is a communal practice. You don’t have to know someone to share in the sorrow or the celebration, we can come together simply because we belong to the same culture and community.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I wanted to go, I had to go, pay my final respects. The Consulado General de México en El Paso and Centro Cultural Mexicano Paso del Norte  hosted “Altar de Muertos” in honor of Día de los Muertos, in remembrance of the victims of Mexico’s earthquakes.

I had been in Mexico City the day the 7.1 earthquake hit and so I came here hoping to find inner peace. Since the day I returned to the states, I had not been able to look at images from that fateful day, and aside from people asking me “what happened,” I myself had not been able to really process my own feelings.

The truth is, I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt.

How do 32 children die in the blink of an eye, but you are still standing? Some things don’t make sense and yet, you have to force yourself to find the glory and gift in your life, to make sure that you live with purpose for those that no longer are with us.

my photo: Yolitzma Aguirre, local artist Luís Colomo

I walked in right at the moment the custom piece by local artist, Luís Colomo, was about to be unveiled.

We took a moment of silence and I felt my heart begin to race. I set eyes upon the imagery and instantly I felt the tears begin to well up, it was brilliantly done.

Before the artist even began speaking I already knew exactly what each item reflected. It was as if he had been there. The bright orange pueblo skirt off to the side, in honor of the other areas like Morelos and Puebla, who suffer great loses but are often excluded from the rescue efforts.

The black ribbon on a tombstone for victims of the earthquakes, including the one that had just hit Oaxaca on September  7th.

Stepping back, I can see a building about to fall…Roma (the neighborhood where many of the buildings fell on the first day).

My eyes continued on, I see the head of the ancient civilization, a Toltec god headstone, toppled over. I then notice under the rubble, the school crosswalk sign, symbolizing the children…the tears sting on the brim of my lids.

Shifting focus, I notice that the darkness is actually in the shape of México, it has been blacked out, in mourning.

I take a moment to collect myself.  I look at the painting again and the bright blue image of Frida’s “Casa Azul” instantly calms me, much as it did on the day of the earthquake.

She was the reason I wasn’t in center of the destruction.

That fateful day I was supposed to have gone to Roma and checked-in to my new room. I decided that morning to not go straight away and instead spend it with Frida Kahlo at her museum.

Ironically, we had an earthquake simulation drill while at the museum, around 11am; they do it annually throughout the entire city in remembrance of all the lives lost in the devastating 8.1 magnitude 1985 earthquake, which claimed 10,000 lives, leaving 30,000 injured and just as many homeless.

It would be 2 hours later as I was walking down the street, that another mega quake would strike, exactly 32 years to the date.

With the city in chaos, I had to figure out how get back to my AirBnB location without Wifi,  without directions, no cell service, just praying to God and the ancestors to guide me back.

It took me close to 3 hours walking, but when I turned the corner and saw Frida’s house, I realized I was out of the woods and now only 20 minutes away from “home.”

As it turned out, the place I was supposed to originally be at that morning, had been evacuated. I like to say that God (and Frida Kahlo) were with me that day.

Now just 6 weeks later, I was here to pay my respects. As I continued reliving the grief, I also began to remember the incredible acts of kindness that I witnessed in the moments immediately following the shock (and for the duration of the time I was there) this was also present in this painting, the spirit and strength of México.

The solidarity of the city. The vendors that pulled their carts out into the streets to feed the people, there was a citywide blackout so stores and restaurants were closed, but the street vendors, they were there.

Each time I took an Uber ride to a volunteer site (shoutout to Uber for giving free rides to any volunteer location) almost every driver I spoke to had just spent the entire night volunteering their time to multiple search and rescue trips.

People brought their own shovels and tools,  anything to help. Families donating whatever food and clothes they could. These everyday heroes had a place on this canvas as well, befittingly at the heart of the mural.

Not to be forgotten, our most beloved “La Otra Frida” was also present. I can’t tell you how much joy filled my heart to see her. She is the rescue dog who captured everyone’s heart as she was sent into the most dangerous zones, among the rubble every day, finding people that were trapped and saving lives. The pride of México that brought so much hope, in a time of such devastation.

As I mentioned before, I had not been able to bring myself to look at any images from that day.  I had survived it, seen it in person, but could not face it.  Yet here I was, no longer able to avoid it.

They were playing a slideshow in the background and I could no longer escape it, I saw all the devastating images for the first time. At last, after weeks of holding it all in, I allowed the gentle tears to softly flow.

The moment I had long anticipated, paying my respects, had arrived. I made my way over to the impressive, towering altar. It was constructed with such purpose and precision.

I noticed that the way the altar was built also followed a cycle, first there was the destruction. I started in the section that held pieces of rubble, there were gloves, and materials used in rescue, broken pieces of concrete.

This was extremely powerful imagery, to see these items again brought back the reality of that day. I stood there staring at each item, remembering…I took a moment to then give my prayer…

Walking around the next section, the colors changed, the bright hues of life filled this space. The pictures and mementos here were all about life and the rescue, the resilience of the people.

My memories took me back to the first night of volunteering at the Zócalo. The line was wrapped around the plaza with volunteers, all of us waiting to be able to help.

Once inside the tent, the hours seemed to fly by. I didn’t know anyone, but none of that mattered.

volunteer site – Zócalo, Mexico City

We were all in this together, each person doing their part…united as ‘Fuerza México.’

 

As I continued to walk the altar, there was an overflow of beautiful cempasúchil (Marigolds) shaped in hearts and a central cross.

I understood…this was a restoration. Día de los Muertos, acknowledging that the wheel turns, the cycle of life…continues. Tragedy does happen, but hope, strength, and the motion of our energy, live on as well. Here, in this moment, I was able to reconnect with México, and in turn, I was able to grieve and say farewell with the rest of Mexico City, in my own small way.
volunteer site – Zócalo, Mexico City

 

Everyone began to leave, I waited for the room to clear out and I gave the painting one last look, this time I noticed something I had not seen before…in the background, on the northern edge of Mexico, you can see a portion of a wall…

But for me, and for many like me, no wall could ever be built high enough to sever the ancestral bind to ‘México lindo y querido.’ I have profound love for the birthplace of my parents, for my heritage and the beauty of my culture.

Now that I have gone through this experience with the people of Mexico City, I’ve come back with renewed pride, deeper clarity and appreciation for all of me that is Mexican, and all of me that is American.

I want to thank the El Paso Museum of Art, the Consulado General de México en El Paso and Centro Cultural Mexicano Paso del Norte,  for always keeping their doors open and welcoming the borderland to experience the beauty of México.

I want to also especially thank the artist, Luís Colomo, who was in Juárez at the time of the tragedy, yet was able to capture everything we were all feeling. His creation spoke of all I was unable to say. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to participate in this event, from the altar display to the artwork, this was a night of healing for me.

As I posted on the day I departed from Mexico City: “un pedazo de mí se quedará en la ciudad de México y CDMX siempre será parte de mí – a piece of me forever stays in Mexico City and a piece of Mexico City will forever be a part of me…”

Border AIDS Partnership to Host Día de los Muertos Spotlight

“Art Celebrates Life” is the theme of this year’s 12th annual Border AIDS Partnership (BAP) Día de los Muertos Spotlight, a fine art silent auction and skull decorating competition in observance of the Day of the Dead.

The local nonprofit’s event is from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, November 4 in the Foundation Room, 333 N. Oregon Street, across from San Jacinto Plaza.

“Our twelfth silent art auction and fifth skull decorating competition is a fun way for local artists and the community to join together to provide critical resources for people from El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Las Cruces who are battling HIV/AIDS,” said Floyd Johnson, event committee chairman and president of BAP.

Past Spotlights have featured original work by area artists such as Margarita Cabrera, Linda Hains, Jesus ‘Cimi’ Alvarado, Erica Marin, Ben Sáenz, Victor Navarro, Miguel Bonilla, Suzi Davidoff, and Horace Mayfield.

In 1994, the El Paso Community Foundation and the US/Mexico Border Health Association created a local HIV/AIDS partnership to provide assistance to nonprofit organizations in the region working on this critical health problem.

With support from AIDS United, the collaboration became the Border AIDS Partnership, a bi-national and tri-state funding collaborative that has been providing funding for HIV/AIDS education and prevention activities in El Paso, Southern New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez. BAP now operates as an independent 501c3 nonprofit.

Since 1996, the Border AIDS Partnership has distributed more than $2 million to support innovative HIV prevention and education programs.

Previous grantees include Centro Caritativo Para Atención de Enfermos de Sida, University Medical Center of El Paso’s Teen Advisory Board, Programa Compañeros, support group HIVida, Actúa y Toma El Control, Opportunity Center for the Homeless, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Families & Youth, Inc.

Tickets are $20 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, and the opportunity to bid on original artwork. It is a juried show. Tickets are on sale at the El Paso Community Foundation, 333 N. Oregon (second floor), and will be available at the door.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Día de los Muertos Spotlight, call 915-533-4020, visit www.borderaids.org, or find them on Facebook.

What: Border AIDS Partnership annual fundraiser featuring  silent art auction work and skull decorating competition by noted artists

When: Saturday, Nov. 4, 6–9 p.m.

Where: El Paso Community Foundation Room (EPCF), 333 N. Oregon

Kids-n-Co’s “Dolores” Adds Life to El Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos takes on a life of its own as“Dolores” takes to the stage to bring the dead to life in El Paso KIDS-N-CO.’S next show.

KIDS-N-CO.’s bilingual production of “Dolores,” was written by local playwrights Lluvia Almanza & Orlando Rodriguez. Directed by Eurydice Saucedo, Dolores is a timeless story of family and hope during the Day of the Dead.

Jose Luis is a young boy who lost his sister, Dolores, at avery young age. Although he has had the support of his parents, he has not really been able to cope with losing someone he loved so much.

As his family prepares to honor her on Dia de los Muertos, he bumps into an old friend, Juan.

The thing is, Juan has been dead for quite some time now. With the help of Juan, Jose Luis embarks on an adventure to be able to see his sister again, but soon realizes that the world of the living and the world of the dead cannot exist together.

“Dolores” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20, 21, 27, 28 and Nov. 3 & 4; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22, 29, and Nov. 4, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison.

Tickets are $7 for adults, and $5 for children, students, senior citizens and military.

 

Residents Invited to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Downtown

The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department invites the public to celebrate Dia de los Muertos with free weekend activities and events between Saturday, October 29, and Saturday, November 4.

Visitors are invited to celebrate Dia de los Muertos by tasting traditional indigenous Mexican cuisine at the cooking demonstration booth at the Downtown Art and Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 29.

Teaching artists will help visitors make Dia de los Muertos themed masks, and Jardin, Cocina y Mercado de la Bowie will be selling sugar skulls that can be decorated. Visitors are encouraged to dress their dogs in their best costumes for a puppy costume contest. The market is located on Anthony Street in the Union Plaza.

On Tuesday, November 1, the El Paso Museum of Art will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos from 6 p.m. to

8 p.m. with an open house for local artist Wayne Hilton’s Hermosos Huesos. The Museum will unveil a 12 foot tall Catrina that was created by Hilton and members of the South El Paso community around the Armijo Recreation Center. The Mexican Consulate in El Paso will officially present their 2016 Dia de los Muertos alter at the museum commemorating Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel.

On Saturday, November 4, the El Paso Museum of History will recognize and honor the armed services POW/MIAs. From 2-2:45 p.m. Reverend Douglas P. Davis, Sr. will present an altar commemorating and honoring the Prisoners of War and soldiers Missing in Action and their families.

Tricia’s Take: Is the true meaning Dia de los Muertos dead?

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, has become very popular in the United States because it falls right after Halloween.

Americans have taken the spiritual, religious holiday and blended it in with the ghosts and ghouls common to American Halloween, and it has a lot of people bemoaning the ‘cultural appropriation’ of yet another Mexican tradition.

I’m sure there is something to be said about ‘cultural appropriation’ and Americans not really understanding what Dia de los Muertos is all about, but I figure it’s along the same lines as St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo becoming bar holidays.

Do we really honor St. Patrick when we drink green beer? Is getting blind drunk during a ‘Drinko de Mayo’ bar crawl really the way to learn about the Battle of Puebla?  No, and I think we can all agree that putting more money into beer manufacturer’s pockets isn’t the intent of either of those days, but because it draws attention to the history of the days, over the years, it has actually served to provide some level of education to the beer-drinking American public about something they might never have bothered to investigate.

I recently posted a sugar skull makeup tutorial on my station’s website and got immediate pushback.  ‘Sellout’, and ‘ashamed of your culture’ were just a couple of the comments that were hurled at me via email.

I explained to the five or six people who wondered if I even knew what Dia de los Muertos was about, that the tutorial was in the spirit of the season, and not my attempt to whitewash my heritage.  One emailer wanted to get into a battle of ‘who knows more about Dia de los Muertos’, but I made it clear that I had no intention of getting into a Google battle.

The plain fact of the matter is Dia de los Muertos is a day celebrated by families in the manner in which their ancestors celebrated it.  There are a few hard and fast rules about the day.  The deceased’s grave is highly decorated, their favorite food is prepared, elaborate sugar skulls are made, and a general air of celebration for the life of the deceased permeates the proceedings.

Having said that, there are quite a few variations on the themes.  I have a friend who makes cake calaveras, not sugar ones.  One family friend prepares her mom’s favorite meal and makes a place for her at the table with her family because she can’t bear to go to her gravesite and have a picnic, as many do on the day.

Instead of the traditional marigolds, one of my friends festoons her parents and grandparents graves with paper flowers that she and her kids spend weeks making as a show of their love and respect for their ancestors.  Should my friends be ashamed of the changes they’ve made to the Dia de los Muertos traditions, or should we see them for what they are – simple evolution.

Every holiday tradition has evolved over the years.  Santa Claus wasn’t always the jolly old elf whose belly shook like a bowlful of jelly.  Back in the early 1930s, Coca Cola took the tradition of a man who left gifts for good little girls and boys and turned him into the red-suited, kindly old man with twinkling eyes that we all know and love.

Santa Claus’ origins can be traced back to Turkey, and his current incarnation is distinctly American, yet there is no cry of ‘cultural appropriation’ from either Turks or Americans when the rest of the world uses the Coca Cola Santa for their yuletide decor.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was conjured up by a Montgomery Wards employee in 1939, but he has been used by nearly every retailer worldwide since then . 

Clearly, the 30’s were a time of imagination, and one could argue, we are in another imaginative time.  The rise of Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube could all be credited, or condemned, for taking simple cultural traditions and tarting them up for the American public.

Photos of amazing calavera makeup fill Instagram feeds during October.  Search ‘sugar skull makeup tutorials’ on YouTube and you’ll be overwhelmed with the number and variations you’ll find.  Google ‘what is Dia de los Muertos’, and be prepared to wade into millions of posts that attempt to explain what the day is all about.

I did a Google search and couldn’t believe the differing opinions on what each Day of the Dead element means.

Does that mean we’ve already lost the true meaning of the day?

I think that instead of seeing sugar skull makeup tutorials as ‘cultural appropriation’ we should instead embrace the thought of non-Mexican Americans spicing up their Halloween celebration with the tradition.

In the hour I spent Googling and YouTubing, I discovered that each post I read had information on Dia de los Muertos and links to credible sources if the reader wanted to delve deeper into the subject.  One makeup tutorial went so far as to say that while Americans had begun using the sugar skulls as mere decorations, their true intent was to celebrate the lives of ancestors, and even if Dia de los Muertos knick knacks were purchased at Target, it would be nice if people thought of their deceased loved ones while they put them out.

I get that we don’t want to lose our heritage and our traditions, but we are a melting pot, and sometimes that means some details get homogenized.

Instead of being upset that Dia de los Muertos has become just another brick in the wall of American Halloween, we should take the time to make sure that no matter how we observe the day, that we make sure to explain the history to those around us who don’t know it.

That way, it isn’t ‘cultural appropriation’, it’s an educational opportunity – with sugar skulls – and who wouldn’t like that?

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