Day of the Dead, Family, Latino culture, Latinos in film

Day of the Dead in the U.S.A

Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead

The Latin American tradition of “el Dia de Los Muertos,” has crossed over to the U.S. as Day of the Dead (DoD) Celebrations are in more cities and cemeteries than ever before.

One can find DoD items at Williams-Sonoma, Cost Plus World Market, Target, Michael’s, and several other stores. The day has been commercialized and is now part of big marketing just like Halloween and other holidays.

I have mixed feelings about all that and hope the tradition doesn’t get lost through merchandising. I don’t want people to think that DoD is Mexican Halloween because it isn’t.

You might wonder what’s up with Mexican culture and death. And how did the celebration come to the U.S?

This is a story as old as immigration and ancestral traditions.

In the 1970’s Latino activists and artists in the United States began expanding “Day of the Dead” north of the border with celebrations of performance art, Aztec dance, art exhibits, and other public expressions, namely the construction of the altar.

This tradition, embraced by the mainstream, builds community, gives awareness for other traditions, and helps maintain ancestral and cultural identity.

There are several icons which constitute a Day of the Dead remembrance.

Recently, museums across the nation have begun to embrace this tradition as a means of engaging more diverse audiences and highlighting how Latin Americans view death, in contrast to Anglo-Saxons.

My county museum has been celebrating Day of the Dead for several years. This year, I and several others are building an altar to the Mexican and Mexican American film stars of the past 100 years, as a precursor to a film festival we’re hosting next year.

First we had to fold and cut a lot of colorful crepe paper to decorate the three levels of the altar. I’m a craft klutz, but with some individual help, I was able to construct a few papeles.

Papel Picado
Papel Picado

Some handiwork from my friends:

Heart and Diamond cuts on Papel Picado
Heart and Diamond cut on Papel Picado

As you can see, just building the altar brings a group together.

Over the next few days, we’ll gather the elements needed to symbolize the four elements: wind, water, earth, and fire. Bunches of cempasuchil (marigolds), photographs, jarros (earthenware jugs or cups), candles, salt, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), sugar skulls and a few other objects.

Here’s a close-up view of a small altar.

Example of Day of the Dead altar.
Example of Day of the Dead altar.

Expand your horizons and visit a Day of the Dead celebration in your area.

 

Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, Latino culture, Parenting, Rosita y Conchita

Talking to Children About the Day of the Dead


It’s officially the Dia De Los Muertos, a remembrance of all our loved ones who have passed onto another world. As Chief Seattle says: 

                                            There is no death, only a change of worlds  

Previous blog entries  have described this “new” ancient tradition of skulls, marigolds, altars and memories.

If this day is new to you, the best way for you and your children to experience the tradition is to attend an event this weekend. Talk about the meaning of this day and that it is okay to talk about the deceased. There are so many memories parents may have of their parents, uncles, aunts, best friends, grandparents or great grandparents.

                                               Share the memories-make some memories

 And one of the second best ways is through storybooks, like the one above. I just read about this book this morning and visited the author/illustrator’s site: Muertoons. I’m their newest fan.

The vibrant illustrations of ROSITA Y CONCHITA and the sweetness of the story make this storybook a keeper. Encourage children to talk about their losses, their memories. Listen to their stories. 

And if you can’t make it to an outdoor celebration, you can always light a candle by a favorite photo of your loved ones who’ve passed, listen to their favorite songs, give them a toast, and let them know you remember them-always. 

Have an enjoyable weekend. 




Calaveras, Celebrations, Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, Infographic on Day of the Dead, Latina Lista, Latino culture, Ofrendas, Pan muerto, Papel Picado, Sugar Skulls

10 Must Have Items for Dia De Los Muertos

http://www.latinalista.com

Right after the candy and costumes of Halloween, we have the celebration of Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead (DoD). 

This is an ancient tradition which has been reintroduced into the United States in the 1990’s. 

I am the second generation Mexican American. The DoD celebration was not part of my childhood or young adult years. The kids in my barrio went across town, to the North side, to go Trick or Treating. We did not stay home and build altars, make sugar skulls or bake pan de Muerto.

Well, I take that back. Most of the homes in our neighborhood had little altars in the living room or in the front yard, but they housed the Virgen de Guadalupe, or a saint, some small candles, and maybe a memorial card of a loved one.   

As a full out celebration, the DoD was not practiced much in the ’60’s and 70’s the USA. But it has found an additional home with Hispanic and non-Hispanic millennials. I’d venture to say it’s now practiced by many Latino baby boomers and Gen X’s. In fact, I’m attending my sixth DofD celebration, this time at our county museum. 

This infographic by GolinHarris on the Traveling Latina site gives an eye-opening look into the “new” old celebration. 

The sugar skulls, dancing calaveras (skeletons), Papel Picado, marigolds, ofrendas, altars and revelry has caught on in the U.S. Big time. Like Hollywood big time

So for those who have not attended a DoD fest, here’s a guide to have your own celebration:

day of the dead altar
Day of the Dead Nicho-flickr.com

 

                 10 Must Have Items for Dia De Los Muertos

  • Altar: This can be on an end table, on the unused dining table, a niche, or atop of a sturdy box. The altar is a remembrance of the dearly departed. 
  • Papel Picado. This is preforated paper, easy to make with tissue and scissors. The element of air is visible when the paper flutters. 
  • Ofrendas/Offerings. What items represent the departed; what did she/he enjoy?
  • Cempasuchitl/Marigolds. Thse flowers symbolized death. Their strong fragrance is said to help the departed ‘smell’ their way back to your altar.
  • Candles. These help light the way for the departed and welcome them back. This is the element of fire.
Calavera Cookies-www.alvaradofrazier.com
Calavera Cookies-www.alvaradofrazier.com
  • Food. This could be a favorite food of the departed (full meals to snacks) plus pan de muerto, a sweet bread in the shape of a skull. I liked these homemade cookies. Fruit represents the earth.
  • Liquid. This element represent water. The liquid could be any favorite beverage of the departed.
  • Photos. Place your favorite photos in prominent places for guests to see.
  • Incense. This may take you back to Catholic school days, but incense is chosen because it is a strong smelling aroma which is needed to guide the spirit back. Some people use sage or copal.
  • Stories. This gives you an opportunity to tell your friends, children, grandchildren stories about the departed and what they meant to you.

Now that you know the meaning of Dia De Los Muertos, go and celebrate your loved ones.

AlvaradoFrazier, BookNook, Character building, Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, fiction, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Building Fictional Characters

Feliz Day of All Souls or Dia De Los Muertos (DDLM). The last two days have been a whirlwind that rivals the 75 degree Southern California Santa Ana winds that we have today. I began NaNoWriMo on November 1st, while getting my micro mini bookstore, The BookNook, ready for opening this afternoon. The last week has been dedicated to unpacking books, retail labels, printing bookmarkers, and all that kind of stuff.

I had the nerve to take off to Los Angeles yesterday evening to catch “Come Fly Away With Me,” at the Pantages, in a quest to relax before opening day.  Ten minutes before the curtain rose I received a text that my cake pop treats would not be ready for me today after all, ‘so sorry.’ There was a problem at their bakery. I moaned and groaned (not in the text), said a prayer and began searching for other bakery numbers. Everyone was closed for the evening. Curtain rose, the musical was non-stop dancing to Frank Sinatra songs and I was taken away for 80 brief minutes. Turned my phone back on and a sweet mini-miracle, the bakery texted, everything fixed, your order will be ready.

I call the BookNook micro-mini because it is within a consignment shop, very nice, where I rent a small space for new and ‘gently read’ books. At the shop today is a DDLM commemoration and local artists will build an altar within the store for the community. People are free to bring candles, sugar skulls, marigolds, papel picado and Pan de Huevo.

Before I take my crates of books to the car, double check on my cake pops, and gather up my equipment I thought I’d post some references from my favorite sites on “Character” building for those who are interested in using this information for their NNWM challenge. (I’m already behind with only 1,643 words, but there are 28 days left).

Writer’s Digest did a good job on How to avoid Parenting your Characters. If you haven’t visited Holly Lisle  blog now is a good time to follow her and pick up some valuable pointers. IMHO she has one of the most helpful blogs for writers. Over at Kirsten Lamb, who is also a wealth of information and who collaborates with many authors to provide great info, is her article for creating legendary characters.

After my bookstore opening I hope to come back and do some more NNWM words. But in between what I hope are many customers, I will be over at the DDLM altar saying some prayers for the departed and enjoying some Pan De Huevo.