POSTED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2008:
Amor, Churros y Fuego
Day of the Dead Arts Festival a multifaceted, poignant experience
around the Living Arts and Liggett Studios as a whole seems energized and determined to succeed. An event like Day of the Dead displays such a movement. Again, I hope development spreads like a plague, but in a more positive, economically beneficial way.
It's inevitable. But, that doesn't make it any easier. It's something I haven't had to deal with outside of a dear Belizean friend and my grandparents, whom I wasn't close to, which, again, didn't make it any easier. I'm in the minority. Death has let me be, but I know that this is only temporary.
Not all my peers in Oklahoma and beyond share my thoughts about the afterlife and the loss of a loved one. It's another one of our differences, although this difference of opinion is less controversial than some of the others.
Día de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a fine example.
I strive to celebrate those who were close to me. It makes sense. Remembering the quirky, insightful, and even disagreeable idiosyncrasies is heartwarming and keeps the memories alive.
I know this is less rosy than thinking of gumdrops or teething babies or puppies, but it's something we will all face. We owe it to ourselves to think about it, address it and to one day honor those who have passed.
Día de Los Muertos, a Mexican tradition of remembering the dead celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, is a cultural practice I have gone mostly without in my life, but one I admire.
The idea of collecting offerings to remember or, for many family members, to attract the souls of the dead with familiar objects like tequila, cards, flowers, or anything the person once enjoyed, is personal and warm -- a way of mourning I hope to embrace in later years.
It's an epitaph with added personality - a deeper look into an individual. It's art.
Touring the offerings at the 14th annual Día de Los Muertos Arts Festival in the Liggett and Living Arts Studios, 3rd and Kenosha, and at the community altar outside gave me a window into the lives of these important people. The carefully arranged jewelry or pictures reminded me of going through a large box of endearing possessions, but these were lovingly placed on someone's behalf, like a mother setting out the day's clothes for her children.
I could feel their love, but I wasn't sad. I got to meet these people. It was a simple memoir of their lives. One I think we all deserve in one way or another.
I scanned the crowd. I wonder if she's her mother, I thought.
It's not really any of my business, but I had questions. I felt a connection. Here, there is still life, at least in my eyes. In the fond memories of their friends and families they're right here.
After creating different scenarios in my mind and assigning personalities for those receiving offerings, I decided to kick back and visit with friends, get a bite to eat, and watch the salsa dancing. I even considered using some of my rusty Spanish, but thought better of it, as my friends either are fluent (no fun) or only know the words hola and cerveza (also, no fun).
I purchased three churros, a traditional Mexican pastry made of deep fried dough and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It was the best $3 investment I made the whole day, although that could change after I make use of my money cometh charm kit. I'll know soon enough.
Later, completely ignoring multiple warnings throughout my life from my mother to never eat dessert prior to dinner, I devoured a burrito. I didn't spoil my dinner, mother. As a matter of fact, I don't think it could have been any better outside of another churro.
The 2008 Dia de Los Muertos was much like the '07 celebration, but the event seemed better organized, with more activities/performances, and the kind of diversity a cultural event like this requires. And, it's expanding.
The area around the Living Arts and Liggett Studios as a whole seems energized and determined to succeed. An event like Day of the Dead displays such a movement. Again, I hope development spreads like a plague, but in a more positive, economically beneficial way. A start would be the addition of a local business on the corner of 3rd and Kenosha, which for Dia de Los Muertos was transformed into a café and quaint music hall.
The sunset marked the quickly approaching dance of the Day of the Dead fire dancers and the dance of the skeletons. I hadn't seen fire dancing since one of my friends in Belize set her hair on fire during one of our goodbye parties. If you've gone without fire dancing your entire life, it's worth making an appearance at the 2009 event.
The salsa dancing during the Salsa Rhythm Project's later performance on the main stage and the dance of the skeletons were the high points of the event. I have always revered and been intimidated by the salsa, since I first saw it danced live in a Nicaraguan club. Dancing lessons would likely add to my appreciation of the dance and aid in my participation. In time, readers.
Being an arts festival, the street was also brimming with artists, their wares and attentive customers. Chimichangas, churros, and margaritas were joined by handmade coasters, paintings and hula hoops being sold in the streets.
Throughout the day, many festival goers wrote to their lost grandmother, dog or friend. I remembered those I had lost. I wished they could have been there for one more hug, but I thought back to the many times we laughed and embraced. I didn't construct an offering or shrine or summon their souls. But, I remembered what they taught me. I remembered the love and pride I hold for them. I remembered the stories they shared. I remembered the impact they had on my life. I remembered. I celebrated.
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