Dia de Muertos

“Hey, daisyfae – someone sent us a message asking if we could organize some cyclists to join up with a parade. They’re trying to put together a Dia de los Muertos celebration and asked if we could help.”

“Sure… Sounds like fun!”

That was in 2011 – i was a volunteer with a cycling group. Putting on make up, decorating bicycles and riding through town seemed a grand idea!  The first year they hadn’t secured an actual parade PERMIT, so the bikes and a couple of cars went slowly down the street while a gaggle of people followed along on the sidewalks.

There was a gathering at a gallery showcasing ofrendas – altars commemorating the dead. Flowers, candles, and music. It was absolutely beautiful to see the altars, carefully crafted with the remembrances of the dead.

In August of 2012, i was shattered by the suicide of a close friend – rattled to my core and immersed in the complex grief that comes from an unexplained death. i was still a mess when the organizer of the Dia de Muertos event asked me to help. i joined the ragtag band of hippies and artists, and sat in a few meetings. They were expanding the effort to include workshops on crafting ofrendas.

Still grieving, i decided it was worth a couple of hours. At that workshop, i dug in… i learned how to make a skeleton from bread dough ‘clay’. i spent hours over the next few weeks thinking of all of the things he had loved, the things that brought him joy.

Cooking, his old gray cat, beer, sushi… i built a beer glass, and figured out how to make acrylic beer. i am not a crafty person, but i build shit. And that year? i built an altar to remember my dead friend. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cathartic.

stella

The following year, when contacted by the organizer i offered her my services. i basically laid down at her feet and asked her to put me to work. That was the year i strapped a giant skeleton to my body while driving a car through the entertainment district in town.

i’ve continued as a parade marshal, farting around with a variety of creatures and whatnot to launch the parade with a bang. This year, it was cold. The parade was a touch smaller, but no less enthusiastic than in the previous years.  i modified the fanciful alebrije we built last year, gave her wings, and let her fly…

parade 2017

The ofrendas draw me in – whether small remembrances, just a few photos and candles, or intricate creations, they leave me wanting to know more about the person being remembered…

altar 2017

i’m not religious. Can’t say that i’m even spiritual. But this is a beautiful, healthy and glorious way to work through death. We paint our faces in the style of the Calavera Catrina.  We dance with death – and celebrate life…

skelfie

 

 

14 thoughts on “Dia de Muertos

    • It is a lot of fun! this year i was able to figure out a rudimentary means to animate the alebrije — without strapping bits to my body with duct tape. Will improve on that next year…

  1. Echoing you and dinahmow. I don’t believe we ever ‘get over’ the death of someone we care about. It changes us. But those changes and the person who triggered them shouldn’t be hidden. And remembering and honouring important people is so very right.

    • Generally, most here in the US are terrible at processing death. The ‘stages of grief’ can be helpful, but often push people into thinking they have to follow a specific procession or timeline… You’re absolutely right – we DON’T get over death. We live with it, it becomes part of who we are, and it changes us! The Mexican celebration, which is similar to others in central/south America, is really lovely… and it has left me feeling better about those i’ve lost every single year.

    • For the first several years, we were the only such celebration in Ohio, but Cleveland added an event two years ago. i think it’s starting to take hold, so perhaps something will pop up in your corner of earth.

      We are very sensitive to avoiding cultural appropriation – the lead organizer is from Mexico, as is another member of the core team. Keeping it from becoming another St. Patrick’s Day, or Cinco de Drinko, is important!

      Feels good to be back – a little weird. i am not tackling the more challenging stuff i have going on – saving that for when i’ve got more time to write. These are just the fluff pieces to re-instill the habit. Trying to get something out at least once a week for the moment… Thanks for stopping by! Feels like a reunion of sorts when my old blog buddies stop in! ❤

  2. You go girl. This is the first year since his death I haven’t done an altar for Russ, just don’t have the energy. I did go to the Disabled Dee loss Muertos festivities at Seattle Center, but that’s about it. We dance with death all our lives, and for many years I was a midwife of death working with the elderly. No energy for it right now, though.

    • energy comes and goes… this year, i picked up more committee responsibilities and managed to fail to follow through on a few things. even with all my new found ‘free time’ since retirement, i still didn’t have enough energy to get a couple of minor aspects of the event completely organized. next year i will try to do better…

  3. I am a big fan of Dia de Muertos, probably because i’m a big fan of Mexican culture in general but the art and ritual involved in this day has always drawn me in and fascinated me… good stuff lady… and for the record since the US has bombed out of the World Cup next year (in Russia no less, maybe the Orange Shitgibbon can call his boss and get a place) i will be all-in on cheering for Mexico (and Iceland cuz who doesn’t love Iceland?) and on the chance El Tri win i will be dancing in the streets with mi amigos and singing…

    • it really is something beautiful! The catholics have “all saints day”, which is along the same lines, but nowhere near as celebratory… it’s the joy that comes with the remembrance, the bright colors, music, dancing… this will make october one of the months i will need to stay in town so i can keep working it!

      icelandic culture is also pretty damn cool! i had a chance to visit there a few years ago and it was wonderful! trolls, volcanoes, faeries, witches and whatnot – all wrapped in a moss-covered moonscape! i may cheer for the same two teams!

  4. thanks for this post. It gave me a better perspective on the Day of the Dead celebration. Doing something to remember the dead is important. I had never thought of this type of activity as a cathartic activity but I’m sure it was. I know visiting my parents grave is cathartic for me. More so when only a few years had passed.

    • Glad that it was helpful! We are focused on growing this event every year – not so much in size (numbers) but in depth. Sharing the understanding of the tradition is important. i don’t live near the cemetery where my parents are buried – i stop by when i’m in town, but it isn’t a regular stop for me. My friend who died? No burial. And my old doggie? Still have his ashes in my living room… meant to take him to the river this summer, but didn’t get to it… maybe next spring?

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