https://www.amazon.com/PALABRITAS-Fall2018-Ruben-Reyes-Jr/dp/1790492963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544741026&sr=1-1&keywords=palabritas
Latino Literature, Writing

Building A Writing Portfolio One Story at a Time

https://www.amazon.com/PALABRITAS-Fall2018-Ruben-Reyes-Jr/dp/1790492963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544741026&sr=1-1&keywords=palabritas
An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, Harvard College Press

Once in a while, one of my mom’s stories gets a hold of me and begs to be written. A few months ago, she told me of an experience she had. She saw spirits.

I wrote a blog post about it, but her story was more than seeing ghosts.  It’s what the story meant to her which begged for a longer look.

The idea of life and death, the spirit realm, and Mexican culture inspired me to create a short story about Mom’s experience.

An example of an ofrenda for Dia De Los Muertos

A couple of months ago I read about a call for submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry entries from a debuting literary magazine, Palabritas out of Harvard. There was no submission fee and the post said that an editor would assist in the rewrites. What did I have to lose, except another ‘no’ response? And from Harvard!

One of my writing goals is to submit stories for publication, once a year. My main goal is to submit my manuscripts. To date, my manuscripts have been ‘liked’ but not ‘loved’ enough for a lit agent to take a risk of offering their representation. 

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

So, submitting short stories are something I do to develop my writing skills and to keep up my motivation. Published short stories add to my writing portfolio and that’s a good thing. To date, I’ve had three short stories published.

Short stories are a good way to write within a framework of an established work count, learn how to trim the fat and I do love receiving free feedback from an editor.

I took a chance and rewrote the blog post about Mom seeing ghosts and developed it into a short story.  Lucky was born.

On the day I posted, on a couple of Facebook groups I belong too, about how bad I felt from rejections of my manuscript,  along came an acceptance letter for Lucky.

The letter pulled me out of the doldrums and reinvigorated me. The editor requested revisions (twice) and the story was accepted. Last week the anthology was published. 

Yes, my story published, in a book, very nicely formatted and with a cover as you can see up there at the top. 

I’m so excited to be in this anthology alongside excellent poets and writers. It is these events that keep me going-and writing- for the long haul.

One of these days, one of my novels will be published. And I’ll celebrate and take a picture of that cover too. 

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!

Latino culture, Latino family tradition, Uncategorized

The Icons of Day of the Dead

La Catrina- Jose G. Posada etching, 1910 Mexico
La Catrina- Jose G. Posada etching, 1910 Mexico

November first begins the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festivities and whose roots can be traced back to indigenous cultures. The Aztecs had a celebration in the ninth month of their calendar with a celebration to their goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Queen or  “Lady of the Dead.”

 

Souls did not die, they rested in Mictlan. Her role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead and she presided over the ancient festivals for the departed. She and her husband, the King of Mictlan, were depicted as skeletons and lived in an underworld of bats, spiders and owls.

The calavera, or skeleton is an icon of the DDLM. It has now evolved to stylized and colorful versions of the skull or skeleton figures. You’ve probably seen hundreds. You can find the history of the sugar skulls here.  Many times you’ll see skull shaped breads, cookies or candy. I had these delicious cookies last year:

IMG_0322
Another icon of  DDLM is La Catarina. She is originally found in a 1910 zinc etching by Jose G. Posada, Mexican printer maker and cartoonist. Later La Catrina was stylized as a female skeleton dressed in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her hat originally is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century. She is meant to portray a satirization of those Mexican natives who the artist, Jose Posada, felt were over embracing European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revolutionary era.
La Catarina
DIego Rivera’s  “portrait” of Catarina popularized her in this 1946 mural.

The Kid-Diego Rivera. Wiki Creative Commons Lic.
The Kid-Diego Rivera. Wiki Creative Commons Lic.

The spirits of the deceased are thought to pay a visit to their families during DoD and the families prepare an altar, another icon, for them. The altar is used to hold offerings, or ofrendasfor the departed. Their favorite foods, photos, and mementos are often placed on the altar together with items the deceased enjoyed:  toys, candy, liquor, hobbies, etc. A bar of soap, towel, bowl of water and other grooming items are traditionally left at the altar with the belief that the dead have been on a long journey and would like to refresh themselves. 

Day of the Dead Altar-Mexico, Wiki Images
Day of the Dead Altar-Mexico, Wiki Images

An icon that celebrates the indigenous roots are the Four Elements: wind, water, earth and fire are often represented on the altar. Wind is sometimes signified by papel picado that moves in the breeze. Candles depict fire, food represents earth, and liquids represent water. The cempasuchitl (Mexican Marigold) is an Aztec tradition, and another icon, which says that the twenty-petal flower attracts souls to the altars.
In the last ten years, Day of the Dead celebrations include both traditional and political elements, such as altars to honor the victims of the Iraq War. There are updated, inter-cultural versions of the Day of the Dead such as the event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, (a very cool website). This year the Smithsonian Institute has a celebration-on 3D! 

Smithsonian Institute
Smithsonian Institute Dia De Los Muertos

The DDLM’s has become more widely known and accepted. Although I didn’t grow up with DDLM’s, I did grow up with small altars in our home, where we did have statues and prayed for the departed throughout the year. This was more in the tradition of Catholicism.

This year, like the last three years, I’m attending a DDLM party at the Ventura County Museum, which features crafts, altars, drinks and dancing. Whichever way you honor your loved ones and those who have departed, may you have a memorable Dia de los Muertos.