Latino culture

Día De Los Muertos is Coming, Are You Ready?

Day of the Dead Ofrenda honoring Mexican women in the arts, 2015.

 

There is so much energy in the air I can feel the spirits descending.

November 1st is generally referred to as Día De Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día De Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels).

November 2nd is the actual DÍa De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The past week in America has been particularly sorrowful. Perhaps, honoring the departed on November 1st and 2nd is helpful to you.

During our childhood, we had altars year round. They always contained the Virgen de Guadalupe, Sacred Heart of Jesus, votives, and one or two photos of someone who recently passed.

To celebrate the Day of the Dead people make altars or ofrendas (offerings) to their deceased. This can be at a cemetery (like in Mexico), in your living room, kitchen, bedroom, wherever you like.

This year my mom made a Day of the Dead altar in the living room. One side of the altar contained the photos of her deceased sisters and brothers, sister-in-law’s, and cousins. The other side, as you can see, has photos of her parents and my dad, and Cesar Chavez, who my mother admired so much.

Ofrenda to parents and husband and Cesar Chavez

My sister’s ofrenda dedicated to the memory of her husband, friends, and our relatives:

A bedroom ofrenda for Dia De Los Muertos

 

An altar in the library of the high school where my sister works:

An ofrenda in a high school library
http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

 

Ofrendas and altars are our way of visiting with, remembering and honoring our ancestors and loved ones who’ve departed.

If you are thinking of making your own altar (you still have time) check out these past posts.

The Icons of Day of the Dead.

What’s Up With Mexican Culture and Death?

The Icons of Day of the Dead.

I leave you with these poems from sddayofthedead.org/poems

“In the indigenous, aboriginal perspective on death, both life and death are mere aspects of a common duality or eternal cycle, as denoted in the following Native American poem from North America:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.

What is Death?
What is death? It is the glass of life broken into a
thousand pieces, where the soul disperses like
perfume from a flask, into the silence of the eternal night.

Unknown Author

Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico
Unique Life
Be as happy as you can, oh king Tecayehyatzin
You who appreciates the jewels that flourish!
Will we live again?

Your heart knows this:
We only live once!
Vida única
¡Alégrate en extremo, oh rey Tecayehuatzin,
valuador de joyas florecientes!

¿Acaso una vez más vendremos a vivir?
Tu corazón lo sabe así:
¡Sólo una vez venimos a la vida!

Xayacamachan 1510 A.D.

 

If you have any questions/comments, please let me know. Thanks!

Travel

Exploring Central Park and Roosevelt Island, NYC

We’re heading into Fall here in Southern California. I keep waiting for that nip in the air, the signal that real fall is coming. Maybe in November.

In June I wrote about waiting in NYC. In July, my son finally moved into his tiny 400 square foot apartment where a queen size air mattress takes up more than half the living room.

In September I visited his place and while he went off to work I went exploring into parts of NYC where I’d always wanted to spend more time.

First stop, Central Park. The park never gets old and is usually lively with music in the mall. Within a few hundred feet the music went from solo saxophone to bluesy jazz and ended with lively bagpipes.

The park has 29 sculptures and I doubt you could see them all in one visit (unless you plan to stay from dawn to dusk). I hunted for the Alice In Wonderland statue I’d missed before and along the way, I saw birds I’d never seen in California.

I managed to get a photo of a Red Cardinal near the Pond.

Cardinal in Central Park

And I found an inviting entrance tucked beside a busy walkway. The sign outside said “Hallet’s Nature Sanctuary.” I entered and found a peaceful place with paths leading up to gorgeous boulders and a rocky waterfall where a host of Sparrows bathed.

Enter the Hallet Nature Sanctuary-Central Park, NYC. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

During the construction of Central Park, in 1858, the designers left the north edge of the swamp relatively untouched for a bird sanctuary and named it the Pond. A portion of this woodland is reserved (Hallet’s) and is open during scheduled hours. This is definitely one of Central Park’s best-kept secrets.

Another day I took a ferry from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, in between Manhattan and Astoria, Queens, where through most of the 1900’s the place housed an insane asylum, hospital, and prison.

The two-mile island can be easily walked from one point (the lighthouse) to the other (Franklin Roosevelt’s Freedom Park). The view from both ends is worth the walk.

Blackwell Island Lighthouse-www.alvaradofrazier.com

Although the insane asylum is now inoperative, you can still see the skeleton structure covered in ivy. I’m saving that photo for my Instagram feed near Halloween; it’s that creepy.

Instead of the asylum, you’ll find Cornell Tech, the Octagon historic residence, parks, a newer hospital, shops, and the ubiquitous Starbucks.

When you’re done exploring for the day you can return to Midtown Manhattan on the Roosevelt Island Tram, if you’re not afraid of heights.

Up in the Air on the Roosevelt Island Tram-www.alvaradofrazier.com

Or you can take a ferry down to Wall Street and continue investigating the city sights.

Now that my son lives in NY, I’ll be back near Christmas time. After that, I’m traveling with my mom and family. Remember the story I told you about the ghosts? Well, they have not been back, but Mom’s asked us to take her to her parents birth state, in Guanajuato, Mexico where she last visited in the 1940’s.

I haven’t been to Mexico since the 80’s. Although I don’t really want to go, and I know this will be a difficult journey both physically and mentally for Mom, I will because that’s what you do for family. I’m glad she did agree to spend a couple of days in San Miguel de Allende, a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. The trip should be interesting.

Explore more, whether by foot or by book. See you next time!

Family, Latino culture, Mothers, Strong Women

Ghosts past and present

Not the spirit Mom saw but close enough. Photo by pixaby.com

 

My mother’s seeing ghosts again.

She hasn’t seen one in over 75 years. So why are they visiting now? And not one but two of them?

These are the questions I’m asking myself as she tells me about the spirits floating in her room, at the foot of her bed, for the past three nights.

On the first night, the spirit is a woman dressed in a flowing white dress. Mom can see the figure is feminine, but she has her face turned to the side, so only her profile is seen. Mom flips the bedcovers over her eyes and begins to pray.

The next night the woman in white appears again. She’s staring at something to the right of the bedroom wall. There’s a figure in a black cloak, hood and all. Mom can’t see a face. She pinches herself to find out if she’s having a nightmare. Nope. She hides under her blankets and prays for them to go away.

“Geez, Mom how did you see all that? You’re legally blind,” I ask.

“I don’t know but I saw them,” she says. “What do you think it means?”

Of course, I don’t want to say the words out loud: ‘it’s the grim reaper.’ Who wants to give their mom that news?

Instead, I suggest she ask them who they are or what do they want or tell them to scram. Mom appears to be thinking about that suggestion, “Hmmm.”

I offer to bring over some sage to burn at the entrance to her room; to ward off evil spirits.

Mom scrunches her lips. “Do you know Becca saw a ghost in my room years ago?”

I can’t remember that but I think my sister used sage for the entire house a few years back.

On the third night, the spirits come again. This time both are side by side in front of her closet doors. The one in the black cloak moves away towards her dresser on the adjoining wall. This time Mom shuffles out of her bed turns on the light, and they disappear.

What to make of these apparitions?

After the questions about whether she was dreaming or not, what did she eat for dinner, and all those questions meant to have her doubt what she saw, she says:

“I know what ghosts look like.”

She’s right.

She’s seen the ghost of her father come to her at a migrant camp when she was eleven years old or so. He appeared, dressed in his work clothes, standing at her feet while she slept on a blanket on the dirt, next to her best friend, Sally. They reported the sighting to her friend’s father.

Sally’s dad said not to be afraid, seeing her dad was a good thing, he was only visiting her at the same camp he used to work at when he was alive. Mom accepted that idea.

Four years later, Mom was ironing in the kitchen and heard her dead mother’s voice call her name. The hanging light bulb above the ironing board swayed. Her mother called for her again.

“I was so scared, I ran out to the porch and wouldn’t go back inside.”

Her friend reassured her that her mother was looking out for her and not to be afraid.

The reassurances about visiting spirits is not unusual in the Mexican culture which has centuries of Mayan and Aztec beliefs about the supernatural world. After all, Day of the Dead celebrates and invites spirits of the departed.

I’ve never seen La Llorona but I’ve heard her wailing.

Ghosts are nothing to fear unless it’s the infamous La Llorona or the Cucuy (because we know what they’re coming for and it’s not pretty).

After the two spirits depart, on the third night, Mom decides to use her holy water from Lourdes. She tells me she sprinkled some drops from the bottle to her doorway, on her closet doors, her dresser and her bed.

Gathering the holy water of Lourdes, France

I can’t believe she still has the holy water since it’s been twenty years since she visited Lourdes, France.

“I’m not ready to go.” She huffs like those spirits better get a grip. Yup, she’s a chingona like that.

There must not be an expiration date for the holy water because Mom hasn’t seen any spirits for a couple of weeks now.

 

 

Travel

One Day You Will Wake Up …Travel More

 

This quote sums up my attitude about travel and life, in general.

Maybe I have this attitude because I had breast cancer in 2005 and thought my life was way more limited than I anticipated (I’ve been in remission for close to 13 years, yay!!)

I grew up in housing projects and low-income apartments. The furthest I traveled before the age of eighteen was three hours away to San Diego, California. But I read a lot of books as a kid and envisioned the places I read about: England, France, Spain.

I worked a lot, mothered three kids as a single mom, and had neither the money or energy to do any travel overseas except once and from then on I was bitten by the travel bug.

So I say all this because I’ve returned from traveling in Spain and Portugal.

 

Casa Bastiló in Barcelona, Spain. Designed by Antoni Gaudí

These two places were on my bucket list because my DNA results listed these two areas in my ancestry.

I’m 51% Native American (North America which includes Mexico) with the rest Italian, Greek, and almost a quarter from the Iberian Penisula (Spain and Portugal).

It’ll sound strange, but when I traveled to Mexico, specifically the pyramids, I felt a tug in my heart as I stood on the pyramid of the sun. A lot of people may feel the same sensation after all the pyramids are a wonder, but besides the ‘tug’ I felt like I’d visited before, in another life and time.

Look familiar? The architect for this bridge was also the one for the San Franciso bridge. This one has train tracks running underneath the freeway. Lisbon, Portugal. Cristo Rei statue in the background.

 

When I travel, I’m sensitive to similar feelings. This emotional reaction, “I’ve been here before” has happened in Florence and Sienna, Italy, and in Lisbon, Portugal.

I don’t know what to make of this experience but I’m eager to travel to Greece now and see if I ‘feel’ anything.

I took tons of photos in Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona, Lisbon and share them on my Instagram account: m.alvaradofrazier . I have a link on the right-hand side of this blog. Let me know what you’ve been up too by following me and I can follow you back.

My summer travels are over and I’ve tried to get back to revisions on my novel. I find myself working around my daughter’s cat, Heidi, most mornings. (She missed me).

Play with me! Heidi, the grand-kitty

I hope you’ve been able to travel or enjoy your backyard this summer. I’d love to see pictures!