Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dia de los Muertos

Today is Dia de los Muertos - no it is not "Mexican Halloween"

I can go into detail about what it is and how it came about but that is not what I intended this post to be. This post is about why and how I started celebrating this day.

Although I am Mexican-American and the daughter of Catholic Mexican immigrants it was not my parents who introduced me to this day - nor the celebration and remembrance of those who have physically left this earth/life. I was 15 - trying to figure myself out - in high school - with my eyes on my future; building up what would get me into college. I made sure to take all the classes I needed, get good grades, join clubs - play volleyball, etc. There was a new club - Hispanic Youth Leadership Council - I figured sure - I can be apart of this - regardless how I eventually came to feel about the word Hispanic (I promise to write about this whole concept one day). SO I joined this club; there were a lot cool events we got to be apart of - some students even got to do this lip sync contest - I am not coordinated enough so that wasn't the route I took. Here is where I was introduced to Dia de los Muertos - there was a contest somewhere either in Modesto or nearby that I decided I wanted to be a part of - myself along with other students and some staff built an altar dedicated to Mexican singer-songwriter Jose Alfredo Jimenez Sandoval.

I enjoyed learning about the history and the traditional elements that were in the altar as well as learning about this singer-songwriter and his influence on Mexican music - and more importantly how he left a legacy and continued to live on. I continued to build altars dedicated to Mexican/Latino Icons after that - then I went to college, ah Santa Barbara; alone, with no one I knew for 300 miles.

Most of my friends either went to UC Davis or Stanislaus - so I had to make new friends and build a new community - I also took this time to redefine or fine tune my identity. During my first quarter at UCSB - I struggled - I felt alone - I felt out of place and I was extremely homesick - I was planning on only sticking it out through December and then transferring but a Dia de los Muertos event changed everything...

I found flyer that read, "Dia de los Muertos brought to you by the Chican@ Studies department" - at that time I had no idea what being Chicana/o was - I was cool calling myself Hispanic/Latina...it was at this event that I found community at UCSB, where I decided I would double major in Chican@ Studies and that I would not transfer.

Fast foward to 2012 - I moved to Oakland, again - not knowing many people - but now at least I was less than a 100 miles from home. I began building my altars and with the help/opportunity from a friend I was able to volunteer at local high schools and bring that same experience I had in high school to others.

In 2014, when my mom passes away - Dia de los Muertos - took on a whole different significance for me - I have a permanent altar for my mom year round - my dad does as well. I built her a nicho, she became the subject of my guest lectures on Dia de los Muertos and altars...

It has become our family tradition to visit her grave on this day and build her a mini altar/take her an offering. This year, 2017, was very special - I was able to participate in the SOMArts - Dia de los Muertos exhibition - http://www.somarts.org/remembrance/ - with the help of my husband and niece, I was able to build and dedicate a public altar to my mother.  I never thought that this day would become this important to me - but it has. In a way it has help me cope with the idea that she is not physically here - but she lives on through her legacy and us.

I am on my way to pick up my dad now to visit my mother and then I will be building nichos with my nieces. If you haven't already checked out the exhibit at SOMArts - please do so - it is up until next Thursday, November 9th, 2017. Here is the Facebook Event Invite - please check it out! thank you.

xo, chicXicana

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