This event was a really great experience for me. Having grown up in Hawaii, I was very fortunate to be able to experience a great fusion of cultures, from Hawaiian culture to Japanese culture. However, there wasn’t a huge population of Latinx people, so I knew very little of the culture. The biggest factor as to why I decided to take the Latina Cultural Production class, was to learn more. This has led to me to attend the Dia De Los Muertos event. This was the first time I experienced a Day of the Dead celebration. Whether it was my groupmates speaking their own language to the people stopping by our altar or the kids celebrating this day with their family, I witnessed the strong Latinx culture surronding Dia De Los Muertos and I am very appreciative of this opportunity to be a part of this event.
The picture above is of our altar which commemorates the children who passed while in custody of immigration.
At the Dio De Los Muertos event, at the bottom floor of El Centro, we had the opportunity to experience part of the culture through its food. There were an array of foods ranging from mole, arroz, frijoles, and a selection of desserts, from arroz con leche, to champurrado, pan dulce, and handfuls of candy. After this, there was a musical procession bringing the event participants from El Centro to the centillion building, followed by folkloric dancing performances. No doubt, this event highlighted the beauty of Latin art, narration of silent stories, and traditions like sugar skull costumes, live music, and the celebration of unity within Latinos remembering loved ones, forgotten ones, and ones who continue la lucha. We couldn’t have had a better experience in El Centro de la Raza.
The picture above is a picture of the band leading people to the procession!
El Centro is packed! It is just as lively outside as it is inside, people are currently eating el pan de muerto and hot chocolate, provided by El Centro. Additionally, performances are occurring, right now a clown dressed in full Dia De Los Muertos attire is doing a comedy act. By the entrance of El Centro people are selling panchos, food, and art, all in the spirit of Dia de Los Muertos. I asked the couple pictured up above what “Dia de Los Muertos meant to them,” they began to explain how its a day of remembrance, and not a day to be sad. Further on explaining how people should not be afraid of death, but rather embrace it. It’s a day to celebrate those who have left us, but also remember the beautiful soul and presences they left on earth.
Here we see a cross-section of students from the Latina culture class eating and chatting in the cafeteria. Currently, there are many people enjoying the free food given out. This is essential because it shows that there is a sense of community and support at this event. This will also encourage people to come together and share a meal while learning the significance of this event. People of all different races and cultures are here, but we all have a common purpose of observing what is happening in our society and how it impacts different groups around us. I am personally enjoying the food and the different conversations that are happening here, and I can say many people feel the same.
As a group, we put the final touches on our altar, focusing on the aspect of Selena’s most memorable accents. We placed flowers, sage, candles, and la calavera on the first level of our altar, representing the underworld. While the second level, earth, we placed water, bread, lip gloss, and a picture of Selena. On the last level, heaven, we placed a rosary in remembrance of Selena and her spirit coming back.
November 1st, 2019 5:34
We began the ceremony, walked around and saw other altars. Once we walked around we went down to the basement to enjoy some mole con pollo. The group in the picture is the Latina Cultural Production class from the University of Washington, discussing the importance, liveliness, beauty, and togetherness that today, El Dia De Los Muertos has brought.
Photo of the Plaza Roberto Maestas ofrenda taken by John Petrovich (Group 8) at El Centro de La Raza in Seattle, Washington for Dio de Los Muertos.
Coming into El Centro it was apparent the excitement of the middle schoolers who were standing in front of their ofrenda, taking pictures and saying “frijoles.” Everyone here here can feel the energy in the air. We are remembering those who left this earth temporarily and celebrating their momentary return.
The after school program commissioned this ofrenda to celebrate the indigenous history that is inextricably tied to this deeply rooted cultural tradition of Day of the Dead. Among the colorful fabrics and flowers you will find Loteria cards, the significance of which demonstrate that even in the hardest times, you can always find happiness and balance through traditions that bring you back to your culture. After all, “La Cultura Cura.”
After the discussion, we watched full length performances by Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, and Taki Amaru. Due to the previous issues with the acoustics of the Intellectual House, the hip hop feministas decided to rap within a cypher instead of in the traditional format of a rapper and an audience. The use of a cypher rather than the stage/audience setup seemed appropriate as it deconstructs the European-created power dynamic of a stage and an audience. When we put someone on a stage, we are putting them up on a pedestal and the bodies that we put on this pedestal have historically been white. The cypher created a feeling of convivencia, allowing the artists to move around freely and dance during the performance. As an audience member, I really appreciated that Taki, Black Mama, and Caye were not willing to accept good enough. As Nicki Minaj once voiced in an MTV documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzGZamtlRP0, women of color are often discouraged from advocating for themselves in the music industry. However, it’s important to demand more for yourself because when an artist advocates for themselves they advocate for all women.
Here we have Lanessa and Makayla facilitating a panel with Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, Taki Amaru, and Gabriela Sinchy Gomez. These women are discussing how they empower women through their art, what their art means to them, and how they maintain self care. Additionally, they touched on topics such as the right to control one’s body, reproductive rights, patriarchy, and living as a biracial women, and what kind of privileges, disadvantages, and struggles that has presented.
These women all spoke very truthfully about their experiences as advocates for womens rights. It was inspiring to hear about the work that they are doing and the obstacles that they have had to overcome.
After this panel, we had live performances from Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, and Taki Amaru. Though there songs were in spanish, and I could not understand all of what they were singing word for word, they conveyed much of it with stage presence and expression of emotion.
Here is the altar that my group set up before the encuentro. The theme of our altar is commemoration of those who have died as a result police brutality and violence at the border.
We have decorated our altar with flowers, tea light candles, water, and photos of the painfulness at the border, We did not include any photos of victims who have passed, but rather general photos of such events, to respect families who have lost loved ones whom we don’t have permission from to portray.
Other Altars at the event are commemorating similar topics. This is likely because of the movie about the murder victims in Juarez that we saw in class, which showed just how unjust or ineffective the system can be.