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!

poetry

Write Yourself a Love Letter for Valentine’s Day

 

paper cutout
Amor Eterno by Tasha Marks and Emily Evans, Zocalo Poets

 

I woke up thinking of Valentine’s Day when my kids were young. You know, the endless search a week before (sometimes the night of) for V cards, small and cute for the kids to take to their classroom.

But this morning, I thought of love letters. Specifically, what if we wrote a love letter to ourselves each Valentine’s Day?

What would mine say? How would I start?

Dear Monica,

I love you?

That’s not it. So my mind turned over what I’d write about and soon I came up with words that lent themselves to a poem:

 

Write yourself a love letter

Write to your heart’s delight, to its dismay

Write to the here and the past

Write to the heat and the cold

the bitter and sweet

 

Write to light and through the dark

Write to the grief and joy

Write to love and to hate

Write to the nothingness or

the jagged points

 

Write to the known and unknown, the shadows and light

Write to the truth and through the lies

Write to remember and forget

Write to the clearing beyond

 abandon self-doubt

 

Write to please yourself and inflame others

Write unwaveringly, straight to the point

Write to sing and to kill pain,

Write for release

feel the words surface, plunge deep

 

Write beyond sight, over the mountain, through the deserts and valleys

Write under the stars, on top of the moon, the sun seeking your face

Write with eyes closed, mind open

Write like you matter,

for you do.

 

Think about it.

red rose

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Oscar Wilde

 

Happy Valentine’s Day ❤

poetry

Ten Latinx Poets on #NationalPoetryDay

I want to do what spring does to cherry trees-Pablo Neruda

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and the first day I caught a breath. A weeklong cough and a road trip of 1100 miles will do that to you.

Today is National Poetry Day. BookRiot published a list of “25 Gateway Poets to Start Reading for World Poetry Day.”

This had me thinking about the first time I became interested in reading poetry. It wasn’t any of the poets in my English Lit classes in high school.

In college, I bought, and read, my first book of poetry:

1-Floricanto by Alurista. His words caught me up in poetry, the poems reflected my childhood, my experiences. My favorite: “We Walk On Pebbled Streets.”  I still have the old book, weathered and marked up in the margins with images that resonated, made me think, ask questions.

 

Poetry book by Alurista
Floricanto by Alurista

The following are Latinx poets I’ve read.

2- Sandra Cisneros: My Wicked, Wicked Ways and Loose Woman. Every woman finds themselves in her poetry. My favorite, a three-page poem:

You bring out the Mexican in me

The hunkered thick dark spiral

The core of a heart howl

The bitter bile.

The tequila lágrimas on Saturday all

through next weekend Sunday.

3. Margarita Engle writes novels in verse, many of the novels are for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. The Lightning Dreamer : Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist and Poet Slave of Cuba are favorites.

4. Frank Acosta publishes poetry on Facebook. Here’s a post about his poetry.

5. Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino Poet Laureate and awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection of poems “Half of the World in Light.”

6-Gloria Anzaldúa, a NEA award winner and co-author with writer/playwright Cherríe Moraga of Borderlands.

To live in the Borderlands means to

put chile in the borscht,

eat whole wheat tortillas,

speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;

be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,

the pull of the gun barrel,

the rope crushing the hollow of your throat

7. Jimmy Santiago Baca‘s poetry is gut-wrenching and intense. He’s written several books of poetry besides a screenplay, Bound by Honor.

8. Verónica Reyes, Chopper Chopper centers on poems from “Bordered Lives.”

Poems by Veronica Reyes

9. Melinda Palacio. I first read “Folsom Lockdown” her chapbook, and went on to  “How Fire is a Story Waiting.” My favorite is “Things to Carry,” her poem about visiting her father in prison.

10. Ada Límon. “Sharks in the River.” She made a blog entry that described a feeling I also had:

I feel like everything these days is just notes. No completed thing, just notes. But I am taking them and walking with them and move them around in my body and flying them like kites and listening to them rustle and maybe someday I will make something.

Now go read some poetry, an old favorite and someone new.

poetry

How Hiking Clears The Mind For Poetry

Anacapa Island, Channel Islands, Ventura, CA View from Hills
Anacapa Island, Channel Islands, Ventura, CA View from Hills

The urge to lace up my hiking shoes, tight, to explore, to rid myself of unbalance drove me to the hills. During the hike my mind cleared and I thought of poetry.

I usually keep a small notebook with me and jotted some lines down whenever I took a break. After the hike, I felt the weight of current events fall away, my shoulders relaxed, my mood lightened. I can tackle another week.

Each photograph inspired a poem:

 

Trails layered themselves, invited me up, to clearer air, brighter vistas.

The glassy blue ocean behind me, the zig zag paths lie before me,

behind me an ocean breeze, a snap of frigid air.

Trees appear sprouting limbs, haphazard grasps for sky.

I need to see those trees, sun myself on the fallen log nearby.

 

anacapa-isl

 

Rocks tumble beneath my feet, pebbles slide, until I reach the pinnacle.

Handkerchief sails make their way to Chumash lands,

ancient islands, ridges of a dinosaur back submerged in the ocean.

Glossy ravens, red speckled beetles,

a hawk circles on a parasail of feathers above.

 

Rock People Gather, Grant Park, Ventura, CA
Rock People Gather, Grant Park, Ventura, CA

Rock people gather in homage to the sea.

Remind me of balance even with sharp edges on round surfaces,

the seemingly impossible, possible

A march of all sizes,

hues of cream, ochre, umber

in one direction.

 

 

nopal-heart-with-tunas
Nopal Heart with Tunas

 

 

Spiky barbs,

alarming, dangerous,

a heart symbol

dotted with strawberry tunas.

The end of the trail meets me with love.

 

 

Do you enjoy hiking?