Last year, I blogged about how Halloween has never been my kind of holiday. Fortunately I live in Phoenix which has a strong Hispanic influence, so I have access to a holiday occurring at the same time that suits me much better-- Dia de los Muertos. Originally an Aztec festival taking place in the summer in Mexico, it was moved by the Catholic fathers to coincide with All Saints' and All Souls' Days on November 1 and 2.
The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased. In most regions of Mexico, November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2.
Perhaps it's because all my close family members are dead, but I do appreciate Dia de los Muertos as a time to prepare some of their favorite foods and to remember times I spent with them. When I learned that the Desert Botanical Garden here in Phoenix was having an exhibit honoring Dia de los Muertos, I marked the dates on my calendar. Denis and I went yesterday, and I thought you'd like to see some of the art and decorations typical of the holiday. Some of them may not be quite to everyone's taste, but when I look at them I see the bright colors, the affection, the whimsy, and the art. Hopefully, you will see some of that, too.
The theme for this year's exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden was "Amoro Eterno" ("eternal love"). Click on any of the photos to view them in larger sizes.
By Christine Delgado, Angelina Delgado, and Rose Jackson,
Also known as Halfbreed Hermanas
"We celebrate "Amoro Eterno" the theme of this year's Ofrendas [the Day of the Dead offering] with a sacred heart. The sacred heart is a symbol of Our Lord's eternal love for his children. Eternal love is also what we hold for our loved ones that have been called home to be with the Lord. The Aztecs believe that butterflies are souls of those that have passed and carry them to the Heavens. Please take a butterfly in honor of those that have passed and place it on the sacred heart, and celebrate "Amor Eterno."
|Sacred Heart detail|
Angels in the Desert
By Martin Moreno
"Every year thousands of people perish in the desert, or "la Frontera." Some are never accounted for. My ofrenda is a memorial to those lost, hoping they will find peace, perhaps with the help of "Angels in the Desert."
|Angels in the Desert|
The Tree of Remembrance
By John Hermosillo and Felix A. Vasquez
"My name is John Alejandro Hermosillo of Cruces de me Madre. I received a phone call on December 8, 2011 at 2 a.m. that changed my life forever. They had found a liver that matched my blood type. Someone had to die so I could live. To receive that special gift of a second chance at life was a true miracle for me. A liver transplant is the most beautiful thing in the world for me and each and every day I feel so blessed.The tree of remembrance helps us all remember all persons from infants to adults who didn't receive a second chance at life. The tree is decorated with white doves, representing purity, and butterflies, representing freedom and no longer suffering. The white lights represent appreciation and love to those who gave us a chance at life. The different types of shoes painted white in a circle at the base of the tree represent someone's loved on that passed away before they were able to receive that special gift of an organ transplant."
|Tree of Remembrance|
|Tree of Remembrance detail|
By Patrick Murillo
"This is an Ofrenda dedicated to my Grandma Minne Ybarra. She is reflecting on her wedding day from the early 1940s. The items included on the altar are her original wedding dress and weil, a gift from my Grandpa Greg. Also included are her perfume bottle and many other personal items. Even this dresser belonged to my Grandma and was used on her wedding day. I remember as a child playing hide-and-seek under this dresser. It is all representative of her spirit that will live on forever."
|Wedding Day, another view|
Little Souls, Pequeñas Almas
By Emily Costello
"This altar is dedicated to innocence lost; children who have died because of abuse and neglect. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that five children die every day as a consequence of child abuse and it is the youngest children that are most vulnerable. Abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. The U.S. has more child maltreatment deaths than any other industrialized nation in the world. 80% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child's parents or caregivers. Sadly, the statistics continue to rise.In Mexican tradition, it is believed that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on November 1, and the spirits of all deceased children ("angelitos") reunite with their loved ones for 24 hours. These little souls have special altars made in their honor that have items that represent what they loved."
|Little Souls, Pequeñas Almas|
Azucariño, Sugar Affection
By Carmen de Novais-Guerrero
"La Calaca de Azucar" or the "sugar skull" represents all that is sweet about our lives on this earth and is symbolically eaten during Dia de los Muertos. Sugar is one of our most addictive substances, seducing many into thinking they have a "sweet tooth." Azucariño transforms the image and symbol that sugar has represented to reveal the evil and the deadly effects it has on us. In reflecting on the theme of this year's Exhibition of Ofrendas, "Amor Eterno," I remember so many sweet loved ones; in particular my mother, Anaide, and my father-in-law, Adolfo, in which their over-consumption of sweets may have contributed to their failing health and their eventual demise. May they rest in peace, having finally found the true sweetness of the love we shared in this world!"
|Azucariño, Sugar Affection|
|Sugar skull detail|
Which ones did you find most striking? For me, it was a toss-up between Sacred Heart and Tree of Remembrance... and Wedding Day made me smile. I almost looked for a little boy peeking out from beneath the dressing table!