Sunday, November 01, 2009

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Sugar skull heavily embellished with sequins, beats, buttons and paint

Today and tomorrow I will share a bit about the holiday and some of my art since its one of the things I get the most questions about and my favorite holiday!
Disclaimer: I am going to share my experiences and tell it to you as it has been told to me. This in no way is meant to "represent" anyone but me and my beliefs so please don't take offense if it means something different to you or you have another way of celebrating. Its a personal celebration and each of us is a fusion of those that came before, there is no right or wrong way.
I am going to share with you bits from my community presentations. I present workshops as part of preserving and promoting cultural connections and cross cultural understanding where we discuss our interconnectedness, learn authentically about one another and make group altars and individual artwork to honor and celebrate loved ones. If you are interested in hosting one for next year send me and email.
And finally, this is not a holiday all Latinos celebrate, varies upon Spiritual background and current practices, country of origin or ancestors origin, region of country. When celebrated in US then varies depending on generation in US, indigenous connection, life experiences and choices and is not tied to anyone group in particular. OK now that's done a few more things and we get to the good stuff.

Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead is NOT...

  • the Mexican (btw not all of us that celebrate are Mexican) version of Halloween
  • scary or morbid; there are no images of gory dead people, ghosts, or witches. It is a festive time.
  • does not honor death or devils; the devil didn’t exist in ancient Mexico until the conversion or not to Christianity.
  • is not a cult and has nothing to with cults.

When I look in the mirror I see my ancestors, self portrait


Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead IS...
  • different by region and by degree of urbanization.
  • a time for friends and family to remember those who are deceased.
  • time to reflect upon our lives, our heritage, our ancestors and the meaning and purpose of our own existence.
  • Celebrated November 1st where children are remembered and November 2nd for adults

Entourage detail

Different conception of Death
In Mexican culture there is a philosophical acceptance of death as an integral part of the cycle of life; death is just another phase of life itself. The ancient Mexicans philosophy and religion encompasses this duality in life and nature, life and death were linked in the journey from one world to the next. Instead of fearing death, it is embraced and considered a “moving-on” to a higher level of consciousness. Again this varies and is not a blanket statement but in my observations, research, and experiences this thought has been infused in various ways and manifests in different forms throughout generations. As a child I have fond memories of my Grandfather and Grandmother taking me on trips to the cemetery as if it were a park. Grandfather would say, lets go visit old friends and make new ones. I remember him reading headstones and telling me stories as we walked hand in hand under the trees, it was never scary just matter of fact and a part of what we will all experience, like all things part of nature.


Visiting the graves of loved ones when possible is very much a part of the celebration. Similar to towns in the US that celebrate Decoration Day or others who celebrate Memorial Day. Family members engage in sprucing up the gravesite and decorate with flowers. The may set out and enjoy a picnic, music, candles and storytelling and interact with other family and community members who gather there.

Houston, Tx 2009

Bits of history
  • Celebrated since before the arrival of the Conquistadors in 1500 B.C.
  • Concepts of death and afterlife existed in the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, and Aztec cultures.
  • Special homage was designated to those warriors who died in battle, women who died during childbirth, children, and healers. It was believed they went to a special place where they enjoyed their afterlife. It was thought that their spirits returned to visit the living in the form of butterflies.
    Can this belief possibly coincide with the marvelous journey of millions of Monarch butterflies who return to Mexico, year after year, for more than a millennium? Many celebrate the Monarch as the return of these loved ones.

butterfly image


Tomorrow I will post on some of the traditional items, symbols and altar building...off to do the finishing touches on my home altar for this years celebration!









5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this explanation of this celebration. I'm from Australia and I've never seen Dia de los Muertos celebrated here. The images still seem a little scary to me - but I know it's just a cultural bias and sometimes our unwillingness to face our own mortality. I really enjoyed reading about the beliefs and history behind it.

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  2. Thanks for this explanation of this celebration. I'm from Australia and I've never seen Dia de los Muertos celebrated here. The images still seem a little scary to me - but I know it's just a cultural bias and sometimes our unwillingness to face our own mortality. I really enjoyed reading about the beliefs and history behind it.

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  3. Thank you Sabrina for sharing your culture and personal experiences with us. Peace and happiness to you and yours as you enjoy your holiday

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  4. Well done! As I have said before, you are very thorough, knowledgeable and beautiful. I swear there are no limits to the information you gather and retain in that control center inside your head! But thank GOD for people like yourself. With your teachings, experiences, and activism, hopefuly judgment & bias toward people, age, gender, and ethnicity will finally, finally, find its limitations.

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  5. I appreciate your efforts. I was just Googling about Con Safos. ~Venceremos! ~Che Peta ~ http://twitter.com/Peta_de_Aztlan

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