Monday, November 2, 2009

Celebrating life... through death.

Forgive me if it seems that I only write about Hispanic topics, here she goes with those Latinos again... In my defense, however, I spend a great deal of time wishing I was living in Mexico rather than talking about it. Similarly, the Outreach portion of my "Environmental Education and Outreach Specialist" job title deals specifically with the Hispanic population of Southern Nevada, so I am constantly thinking about our enigmatic neighbors to the South. Having said that, please indulge me one more time as I express my fondness and delight for a culture that is so enchanted with life, they continue celebrating it long after it has ended. Such nonsensical contradictions can only be referring to El Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday memorializing those who have passed, and welcoming them back for an evening of remembrance.
The Day of the Dead celebration is significant because it is a unique convergence of cultures- those of Spain mixed with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The tradition commemorates life after death, and the idea that after loved ones pass on they are still an active part of our lives. Festivities start on November 1 when families build an alter, or ofrenda, for someone special. The ofrenda can be any shape or size, but always includes photos, food, bright colors, candles, and other personal and special touches specific to the honored guest. The idea follows, then, that the person for whom an ofrenda was erected will rejoin us on the nights of Nov. 1 and 2 to feast with family and friends. It is a beautiful way of embracing life and moving forward with death. To quote the fathomless Octavio Paz, "The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love."

I'd like to invite you all to come join me Monday Nov. 2 at the Winchester Cultural Center off of D.I. and Pecos from 4-9 pm. We built an ofrenda in observance of the 16 suicides this past year on federal public lands (Mt. Charleston, Red Rock, Lake Mead, etc.). Entrance is free and if you've been looking for a great tamale at a reasonable price, this is the place for you. There are several ofrendas, as well as vendors, poetry, food, live music, and traditional dancers. Prepare to have your mind blown. 
We spent all week building our ofrenda, and it wasn't until the sun had fully set and I saw our work of art lit only by candles and the full moon that I realized how proud I was of this delicate creation. It truly is beautiful.
What follows is a glimpse of how we made our ofrenda and what the end result looks like. For reasons of comparison I’m including a few other ofrendas as well. Like what you see? Come join us for the last night of festivities.


Ofrenda for Los Braceros (Migrant farmers from the 40's-60's who never received full pay)


Michael Jackson's ofrenda

My personal favorite, an ofrenda venerating those who died trying to cross the border.

Extraordinary entertainment


Carol said...

I clicked on each picture to enlarge them--very interesting. Thanks for the little lesson on ofrenda's (I'd never heard of it.)

Ron said...

Glad to see you enjoy this and passing the info on to us gringos. I'm reading this too late to partake of the festivities. (does it help if I say I love Mex Food?)

Brenda said...

Keep posting! It is all interesting. I'm slow to check it but I really enjoy your what you write.