October 19, 2001

"Día de los Muertos: Past and Present"

The Sherman Heights Community Center will host its Annual Special Event in Celebration of Days of the Dead on Saturday, October 27, 2001, 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. There will be Altars Exhibition, Aztec Dancing, and Day of the Dead workshops at 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 28, 2001, 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. Altars Exhibition, Typical Day of the Dead Food, and Workshops at 2:00 pm.-4:00 pm.

The Day of the Dead, is an occasion for celebrating, feasting, dancing, and making Day of the Dead folkart. The Sherman Heights Community Center invites you to celebrate with us the reunion of the living and non-living. The Community Center is honored to provide a space where members of the community, who for the majority find themselves far from their ancestral grave sites, to construct and bring offerings.



Candles, marigolds, decorated altars, traditional gifts and fascinating art such as that pictured here, highlight "Dia de los Muertos"

This year, altars representing states from México: Oaxaca, Estado de México, Tlaxcala, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Chiapas, Sonora, Michoacan, Jalisco, in addition to altars for, Women of the Revolution (Mujeres en la Revolución), one by the youth, Human Rights, and lastly, an altar honoring Cesar Chavez. Altars are prepared as a tribute, to loved ones, whose souls will pay a visit. The offerings are placed on a table, usually covered by a white table cloth, tissue paper, and flowers. Many of the offerings used on the altar are elements that the ancient Mexican's used before the Spaniards arrived: arches made of reed of corn husk, incense food, drinks, and different kinds of flowers. All of which have symbolic meanings.

The ancient inhabitants of México consider death as the beginning of a cycle from where life would start again. Therefore, death did not have a terrible connotation for them, but rather it was something natural and not a definite end. The celebration of the Day of the Dead is not just a one day event. In Mexico most villages and towns begin the rituals on October 28th, considered as the day in which we remember those who died as children, who we consider the angels, although in recent years this celebration has been somewhat contaminated by western celebration of Halloween. On November 1st we celebrate all Saints Day and November 2nd is the last day, when we remember those who died as adults.

The typical Day of the Dead flower is the marigold called "Zempasuchitl," which means "twenty flowers." This flower was of great religious significance amongst the ancient Mexican cultures and was regarded as a symbol of wisdom, beauty, truth, and eternity. The offering of flowers is a way of paying compliments to the deceased's virtues and forgetting any hatred.

A variety of dishes are prepared that our dead ones liked: mole (a traditional chocolate/chile deep dark sauce), corn in all its different forms, such as tortillas, tamales, and refried beans with traditional herbs. Fruits are also offered such as tangerines, guavas, and pumpkins, all sorts of nuts, honey and sweets. Chocolate and bread cannot be left our of the celebration. Bread has sacred connotations, which comes from the Catholic tradition, and it is shared amongst the dead and the living. To the deceased who liked to drink, we offer mezcal, pulque, tequila, and beer. Glasses of water are also placed on the altar table, because the souls have to make a long journey and will be very thirsty on arrival.

The altars are covered with candles to light the way for the souls to and from the realm of the dead. They also represent truth and wisdom and they are related to all we have learned from the deceased. Incense, usually the resin of the copal tree, is burnt in a vessel means by which we communicate with the gods, through which the souls come to us: the firmament, the earth and the air.

During the whole celebration, the families share the food and drinks with their dead relatives and friends at their graves. It is not a sad occasion but rather a joyful one when all meet and celebrate the magical circle in which the living play only but a part.

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