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.
Some handiwork from my friends:
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.
Expand your horizons and visit a Day of the Dead celebration in your area.
I’m that tia (aunt) who often gives books for Christmas and birthdays. My nieces and nephews have lots of toys, too many clothes, and not enough trips to the library.My mom also gives books in addition to clothes and/or a toy.
I must say though that my nieces and nephews reactions haven’t been as forceful as the kid in the YouTube above, ‘pooh-poohing’ his way across the Christmas tree and the Wii set.
The kids might ‘pooh-pooh’ me in their mind, but my family wouldn’t dare giggle or they’d hear a few choice words in Spanish fly out of my mom’s mouth (the equivalent of ‘unappreciative brat’).
This year the tradition continues. Before Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrives think about giving some books to your family and friends, whether a child or an adult.
Today’s list is from a site that encourages reading about the Latino culture. The Best 2014 New Latino Authors was compiled by Jose B. Gonzalez, Ph.D., writer, poet, editor and John S. Christie, Ph.D., the author of Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination. Their website has tons of recommendations for adults and children, from 2006-2013. (I apologize that the photos may not appear, however the links to the books are fine).
The first list is for adults or older teenagers. The list below this one is from Flavorwire and are books for children.
1) This author needs no introduction. In her memoir, My Beloved World, the ever-inspirational Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor provides readers with powerful insight on the role that hard work and determination played in the early parts of her life as she forged a path to law school from housing projects in the Bronx to Princeton University, Yale Law School, and to the highest court in the nation.
2) If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, there is no doubt that you will absolutely love Amy Tintera’s Reboot. Not surprisingly, the film rights to this thrilling sci-fi novel have already been sold. This is an author who knows how to push the limits of imagination and write young adult works that will leave everyone begging for sequels.
3) In Flowers in the Dust, Miriam Alvarez tells an intriguing tale based on her grandmother’s life. This work of historical fiction paints a poignant picture of South America around the mid-1900s, and is a touching portrait of a woman whose devotion to family is inspirational.
4) Mario Alberto Zambrano brilliantly weaves together a plot that that flows smoothly as it unravels like the popular game and novel’s namesake, Loteria. And just like the game, the story is unpredictable and full of twists.
5) Sonia Manzano, author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, has shown us that she has acting talent, having played Maria on Sesame Street since 1971. And now through this novel, she shows off her writing skills. Set in the 1960s East Harlem, this story is both gritty and witty as it revisits a time of the Young Lords, rebellion, and youth.
6) In Speaking Wiri Wiri, winner of the inaugural edition of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, Dan Vera shows us why he is earning a reputation as a talented, sophisticated poet who is a master at playing with words. This collection, his second book of poetry, is a dazzling display of language and emotion.
7) In the short story collection, The Bolero of Andi Rowe, Toni Margarita Plummer reminds us that this genre is alive and well. She is a master of subtle suspense—the kind that creates tension waiting to explode until the final twist.
8) Sandra Ramos O’Briant’sThe Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood is a page-turning work of historical fiction with drama that multiplies over and over, in a style that will make it difficult to put this novel down.
9) Winner of the prestigious Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Laurie Ann Guerrero’s A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying is a poetry collection with images that are both haunting and fascinating. Guerrero illustrates that she is part poet and part storyteller.
10) Agustin D. Martinez, author of The Mares of Lenin Park, created quite the buzz in 2013. His debut novel is part of an impressive line of works that tell the sometimes complex but compelling stories of Cubans during the revolution.
Flavorwire compiled a list of a few great children’s books with diverse characters and stories. These are classics, beautifully written and artistically pleasing.
In this gorgeous book — a work of quilted art with story woven in — a little girl dream-soars above 1939 Harlem, looking down at the eponymous tar beach of her family’s roof. Evidence that imagination can overcome most anything.
Second-grader Alvin Ho is scared of everything — especially school, which frightens him so much he can’t say a word. Adorable and immensely relatable, everyone will fall in love with Alvin as he worries over his descent from “farmer-warriors who haven’t had a scaredy bone in their bodies since 714 AD” and takes pride in his “gentleman in training” status.
Goble’s Caldecott-winning 1978 story of a Native American girl swept up in a stampede is a masterpiece, surely one of the most beautiful children’s books of all time. For every little girl who has ever felt a deep connection to horses. You probably know some little girls like that.
The Vietnamese-American writer Thanha Lai’s debut novel, which won the National Book Award in 2011, tells the tale of Hà, a ten-year-old girl who flees to Alabama with her family during the fall of Saigon. The language is beautiful and the story, based on the author’s own experiences, is quite touching.
This chapter book follows 13-year-old Esperanza as her wealthy family loses everything during the Great Depression. She and her mother are forced to flee their fancy ranch in Mexico to California to work on a farm. Esperanza must remake herself in this new, physically and mentally demanding world — but after all, “esperanza” means “hope.”
“It’s funny how ideas are, in a lot of ways they’re just like seeds,” muses ten-year-old Bud-not-Buddy, on the lam from a foster home to find his father in 1930s Michigan. “Both of them start real, real small and then… woop, zoop, sloop… before you can say Jack Robinson, they’ve gone and grown a lot bigger than you ever thought they could.” A delightful modern classic and the winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award.
Some stories, like the Red Riding Hood tale, strike so close to the human heart that they re-pattern themselves across cultures and countries — if perhaps wearing different cloaks. This beautifully illustrated, immensely powerful book — dedicated “To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness” — is the version your literary editor grew up with.
María Isabel Salazar López is the new girl in school, and her teacher insists on calling her Mary. How can María make her see that her name — her proper name — means everything to her? A sweet story about heritage and standing up for yourself.
The winner of the Americas Award for Children’s Literature and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, this picture book follows two young boys in a village in Chile after one of their fathers is arrested and the agents of the dictatorship try to turn children against parents. Serious, edgy, and brilliant.
But of course. Keats’s beloved Caldecott Medal-winning book, published in 1962, made history for being the first full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist. Add to that the beautiful collage-style illustrations and Peter’s charming, understated adventure, and you have an all-time classic that never seems to age.
Next post will be a list for Middle Grade and YA. Happy reading and have fun choosing some memorable books.