Artbound

S10 E3 | FULL EPISODE

Día de Los Muertos / Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos has been adapted for centuries from its pre-colonial roots to the popular depictions in mass media today. Inspired by Oaxacan traditions, it was brought to East Los Angeles in the 1970’s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity through a small celebration at Self Help Graphics and Art. Since then, the celebration has grown in proportions with renditions enacted globally.

AIRED: May 31, 2019 | 0:56:18
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

WOMAN: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, FOR

ME, IS SOMETHING THAT IS VERY

MUCH L.A.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: IT WAS REVIVED

BY THE ARTIST COMMUNITY IN THE

EARLY SEVENTIES IN LOS ANGELES

THROUGH SELF HELP GRAPHICS, AND

SO THE CHICANA/CHICANO ARTISTS

REALLY HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE

SHAPING OF WHAT DAY OF THE DEAD

LOOKED LIKE HERE, YOU KNOW, IN

CALIFORNIA AND ALSO THROUGHOUT

THE SOUTHWEST.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: AS PEOPLE

MIGRATED TO UNITED STATES, THEY

BROUGHT THIS HOLIDAY WITH THEM.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: IN REPRODUCING

DAY OF THE DEAD HERE IN LOS

ANGELES, ZAPOTECS, I THINK,

HAVE THIS RESPONSIBILITY

BECAUSE, HANDS DOWN WITHOUT

QUESTION, IT IS THE MOST

IMPORTANT CELEBRATION FOR

ZAPOTECS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE

BORDER.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: IT'S A HOLIDAY

CREATED FROM A CLASHING AND A

COMBINING OF CULTURES AND

PEOPLE TAKING WHAT'S IMPORTANT

FROM EACH AND MAKING SOMETHING

NEW, SOMETHING VIBRANT,

SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, AND

SOMETHING THAT HAS MEANING FOR

THEM AS THEY ARE AT THAT POINT.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: NOW THAT IT'S

PRACTICED IN VERY MODERN, URBAN

SITUATIONS WHERE DIVERSE

CULTURES HAVE THEIR OWN WAY OF

BEING AND EXPRESSING, THERE'S

THAT LEVEL OF SYNCRETISM. MAYBE

WE COULD SAY, MODERN LIFE HAS

ALSO IMPACTED HOW THE TRADITION

IS PRACTICED.

ANNOUNCER: THIS PROGRAM WAS

MADE POSSIBLE IN PART BY A

GRANT FROM ANNE RAY FOUNDATION,

A MARGARET A. CARGILL

PHILANTHROPY; THE LOS ANGELES

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

THROUGH THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY

ARTS COMMISSION; THE LOS

ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL

AFFAIRS; THE CALIFORNIA

HUMANITIES; AND THE CALIFORNIA

ARTS COUNCIL.

WOMAN: WE'LL SEE WHICH SIDE.

THE OTHER SIDE MIGHT BE A

LITTLE BRIGHT. IT HAS TWO

FACES, AND THIS PAPER HOLDS UP

PRETTY WELL. IT'S THE ONE THAT

IS MADE IN MEXICO.

MAN: MM-HMM.

WOMAN: YEAH. IT'S MUCH BETTER

QUALITY.

THIS YEAR HERE AT TONALLI

STUDIO, WE ARE HONORING MY

GREAT-GREAT-GRANDMOTHER--WE

CALL HER MAMA POLA--WHO RAISED

MY MOTHER AND WHO WAS BORN IN

HUANIMARO IN 1856, AND MY

MOTHER TELLS ME THAT SHE SAID

SHE DIDN'T WANT TO DIE IN THIS

COUNTRY. SHE WANTED TO DIE IN

HER HOMELAND, AND SO SHE WENT

BACK TO HUANIMARO, AND MY

MOTHER ALWAYS LAMENTED THAT SHE

LET HER GO BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T

HAVE ANY CLOSE RELATIVES THERE

ANYMORE. SHE WAS ALONE,

BASICALLY.

WOMAN: THERE'S ELEMENTS THAT

WILL TRANSCEND AND GO ON EVERY

ALTER THAT OFELIA DOES, SO YOU

ALWAYS SEE THE PAPER FLOWERS.

THE PAPER FLOWER'S IMPORTANT

BECAUSE THERE'S A WHOLE PROCESS

IN CREATING THEM, AND IT TENDS

TO BE A PROCESS THAT INCLUDES

MANY PEOPLE. YOU NEED SO MANY

TO GET THE WOW FACTOR THAT YOU

SEE IN THE ALTARES. THAT'S

SOMETHING THAT SHE HAS LEARNED

FROM HER MOTHER AND HER

GRANDMOTHER.

OFELIA: FOR THIS ALTAR HONORING

MAMA POLA, MY DAUGHTER ROSANNA

AND MY SON JAVIER ARE A GREAT

PART OF CREATING AN ALTAR.

ROSANNA: WE'VE BEEN WORKING

TOGETHER ON ALTARS,

COLLABORATING TOGETHER FOR A

GOOD 10 YEARS. WE'D GET

TOGETHER AND JUST FIGURE OUT,

"OK. WHAT IS THE THEME? WHO ARE

WE HONORING?" AND DEVELOPING

THE CONCEPT. FOR THE ALTAR THAT

WE'RE WORKING ON NOW, WE JUST

KIND OF BRAINSTORMED AND SAID,

"WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO GO TO

MAMA LUPE'S HOMETOWN AND JUST

CONNECT OVER THERE?"

OFELIA: I WANTED TO FIND

SOMETHING IN HUANIMARO FOR MAMA

POLA'S ALTAR BECAUSE SHE WAS

FROM THERE. SHE WAS BORN THERE

AND DIED THERE.

[ROOSTER CROWS]

[ALL SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: THAT'S VERY--

ROSANNA: YEAH. WE COULD USE IT

TO...

OFELIA: YEAH.

[ALL SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: CHIQUITO. OH, YES.

ROSANNA: LOOK. LOOK.

OFELIA: OH...

ROSANNA: ON THE ALTAR, MOM...

OFELIA: YES.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

WOMAN: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS IS AN

ANCIENT, ANCIENT TRADITION, A

REALLY PROFOUND TRADITION

ANCIENT TO THE INDIGENOUS

CULTURES OF MESOAMERICA, BUT

IT'S ALSO A TRADITION THAT WAS

FUSED WITH THE SPANISH CATHOLIC

BELIEFS OF HONORING THEIR

ANCESTORS OR REMEMBERING THE

DEAD.

WOMAN: IT'S A SYNCRETISM. IT'S

A HOLIDAY CREATED FROM A

CLASHING AND A COMBINING OF

CULTURES AND PEOPLE TAKING

WHAT'S IMPORTANT FROM EACH AND

MAKING SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING

VIBRANT, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL,

AND SOMETHING THAT HAS MEANING

FOR THEM AS THEY ARE AT THAT

POINT. A LOT OF PEOPLE ASSUME

THAT THOSE SKELETONS CONNECT

WITH THE AZTEC CULTURE, BUT--

IT'S MAYBE A CONTROVERSIAL

IDEA--I THINK THE CONNECTION

CAN ALSO BE MADE TO SORT OF

THIS MEDIEVAL, EUROPEAN DANCE

MACABRE, YOU KNOW, THIS SORT OF

DANCE OF DEATH WHEN THEY HAD

MOSTLY IN DRAWINGS AND

PAINTINGS SKELETONS DOING

STRANGE, WONDERFUL, AND FUNNY

AND ODD THINGS THAT INSPIRE

COMMENTARY, SOCIAL COMMENTARY,

SO IT COULD BE THAT THIS BEGAN

AS THAT AND THEN IT'S, OF

COURSE, BEEN ENTIRELY

REINTERPRETED TO BE ITS OWN

THING, SO ONCE AGAIN, A GREAT

EXAMPLE OF SYNCRETISM CHANGED

FURTHER, OF COURSE, WHEN THE

SPANIARDS WERE KICKED OUT AND

IT BECAME MEXICO AND THERE WAS

SORT OF MAYBE A REAPPROPRIATION

OF AZTEC IMAGERY INTO THE IDEA

OF THIS HOLIDAY.

MEDINA: NOW THAT IT'S PRACTICED

IN VERY MODERN, YOU KNOW, URBAN

SITUATIONS WHERE DIVERSE

CULTURES HAVE THEIR OWN WAY OF

BEING AND EXPRESSING, THERE'S

THAT LEVEL OF SYNCRETISM, SO

MAYBE WE COULD SAY MODERN LIFE

HAS ALSO IMPACTED HOW THE

TRADITION IS PRACTICED.

ROSANNA: IN THE U.S., IT REALLY

KIND OF SPRUNG UP FROM SELF

HELP GRAPHICS AS A PUBLIC

CELEBRATION.

AVILA: SELF HELP GRAPHICS

STARTED IN THE GARAGE OF SISTER

KAREN BOCCALERO WITH ARTISTS

CARLOS BUENO AND ANTONIO IBANEZ

IN THE EARLIER SEVENTIES.

MAN: AND IN THE GARAGE, THEY

ATTRACT OTHER ARTISTS, AND WITH

THERE, THEY KIND OF GAIN

MOMENTUM, AND SISTER KAREN,

BECAUSE SHE WAS PART OF THE

ORDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT

FRANCIS OF PENDANTS AND

CHRISTIAN CHARITY, RECEIVES A

GRANT WHICH ALLOWS THEM TO MOVE

INTO THEIR FIRST ACTUAL

BUILDING ON BROOKLYN AVENUE,

WHERE THEY THEN MOVE FROM A

KIND OF INFORMAL GROUP TO A

MUCH MORE FORMALIZED GROUP

WHERE THEY INCORPORATE SELF

HELP GRAPHICS AND ART,

SO SISTER KAREN WAS FAMILIAR

WITH DIA DE LOS MUERTOS FROM

HER TIME AT IMMACULATE HEART

COLLEGE, WHERE IN SISTER CORITA

KENT'S CLASSROOM, SHE WOULD

HAVE SEEN A VERY WELL-KNOWN

FILM BY CHARLES AND RAY EAMES

WHICH WAS TITLED "DIA DE LOS

MUERTOS" FROM 1957.

[MARIACHI MUSIC PLAYING]

OFELIA: ANYBODY WHO CAME WOULD

SIT THERE AND WATCH THE FILM,

AND SHE WANTED THEM TO GET THE

FEEL OF THE COMMUNITY-BASED

ALTAR MAKING OR CELEBRATION OF

DIA DE MUERTOS.

AVILA: SO THIS FILM ENDED UP

BECOMING WHAT SISTER KAREN AND

SOME OF THE OTHER ARTISTS WOULD

USE TO SHARE ABOUT DIA DE LOS

MUERTOS TO A CHICANO COMMUNITY

THAT HAD NEVER EXPERIENCED

THAT. THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT

THAT WAS. IT JUST WASN'T PART

OF OUR LIFE HERE.

OFELIA: WELL, IN THE EAMES FILM

I SAW THE PEOPLE WERE MAKING

THESE WREATHS, THESE CORONAS

WITH FLOWERS FOR THEIR ALTARS,

AND SO IT REMINDED ME OF MY

MOTHER'S THAT SHE WOULD MAKE

FOR OUR ALTARS OR FOR FUNERALS,

AND SO I INCORPORATED THAT

IDEA, MAKING THEM WITH

TISSUE-PAPER FLOWERS. THEN I

PUT FOIL OR TIN LEAVES, GIVES

IT A LOT OF LIGHT AND TENSION.

I LEARNED LOTS OF WAYS TO

DECORATE AND MAKE DECORATIONS,

MOSTLY OUT OF PAPER AND

ALUMINUM.

CERVANTEZ: CARLOS BUENO AND

ANTONIO IBANEZ, TWO ARTISTS

FROM MEXICO, REALLY HAD A GREAT

IMPACT ALSO ON BRINGING DAYS OF

THE DEAD TRADITION TO SELF HELP

GRAPHICS, WORKING WITH SISTER

KAREN, AND ALL OF THE ARTISTS

AT THAT EARLY TIME IN THE EARLY

SEVENTIES, AROUND 1972, WERE

REALLY VERY OPEN AND EXCITED,

YOU KNOW, TO UNDERSTAND THIS

TRADITION BETTER AND MORE. OF

COURSE AT THAT TIME, THERE WAS

NOT A WHOLE LOT OF INFORMATION

ABOUT DIAS DE LOS MUERTOS.

DECEMVIRALE: CARLOS AND ANTONIO

BASICALLY BRING MEXICAN

CULTURAL PRACTICES AND THEIR

KNOWLEDGE OF MEXICAN CULTURAL

PRACTICES AND AESTHETICS TO

EAST L.A.

A LOT OF THEIR EARLY WORKS ARE

DEPICTIONS OF YOUNG BOYS, YOUNG

GIRLS WEARING TRADITIONAL

OUTFITS WITH PINATAS, WOMEN

WITH FLOWERS IN THEIR HAIR, ALL

OF THESE NOSTALGIC MOMENTS WITH

CARLOS AND ANTONIO WHERE

THEY'RE CALLING UP ALL OF THIS

IMAGERY AND THEY'RE PUTTING IT

INTO THEIR WORK, SO YOU HAD

IMAGES LIKE THE 1973 "BODAS DE

ORO" PRINT, WHICH WE THINK

MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE

FIRST COMMEMORATIVE PRINTS FOR

DAY OF THE DEAD, WHERE YOU SEE

HIM REACHING BACK INTO HIS OWN

KNOWLEDGE AND MEMORIES ABOUT

BEING YOUNGER IN MEXICO BUT

THEN ALSO TAPPING INTO AN

ACTUAL AESTHETIC THAT HE SAW IN

PRINT. WE CAN ALSO ASSUME THAT

HE WOULD HAVE BEEN FAMILIAR

WITH THE WORK OF JOSE POSADA,

AS WELL. LIKE, WHEN YOU LOOK AT

THEM, THEY DON'T LOOK LIKE

POSADA'S, NECESSARILY. ONE OF

THE FIGURES HAS FLOWERS IN HER

EYES. THEY SOMEWHAT LOOK LIKE

THEIR FACES ARE PAINTED, EVEN.

IT DOESN'T SEEM TO FOLLOW THIS

SORT OF STRAIGHT, WHITE SKULL

KIND OF MOTIF OR AESTHETIC THAT

POSADA WAS WORKING IN.

MAN: THEY HELD ANTI-WAR RALLIES

IN CHICAGO, SAN FRANCISCO,

AUSTIN, AND HOUSTON,

GATHERED...

CERVANTEZ: IT WAS A TIME,

ESPECIALLY IN EAST LOS ANGELES

AND DIFFERENT CHICANA AND

CHICANO COMMUNITIES, OF GREAT

POLITICAL TURMOIL IN LOS

ANGELES. WE HAD JUST GONE

THROUGH THE CHICANO MORATORIUM

AND THE DEATH OF RUBEN SALAZAR,

AND SO, WHETHER CONSCIOUSLY WE

REALIZED IT OR NOT, I BELIEVE

THAT DIAS DE LOS MUERTOS CAME

AT A VERY IMPORTANT TIME AND

WAS EMBRACED AT A VERY

IMPORTANT TIME IN A COMMUNITY

THAT FELT SOMEWHAT FRAGMENTED

AND MOST DEFINITELY

MARGINALIZED, SO WHEN DIA DE

LOS MUERTOS BEGAN TO BE

CELEBRATED, IT CAME AT A TIME

IN OUR COMMUNITY WHERE WE

REALLY NEEDED SOMETHING THAT

WAS VERY HEALING AND UNIFYING.

DECEMVIRALE: THEY WERE USING

THEIR KNOWLEDGE TO RESPOND TO

VERY DEFINITE SOCIAL AND

CULTURAL NEEDS, SO THERE WAS

THE NEED TO BE PRESENT, TO BE

MEXICAN, TO BE CHICANO IN

PUBLIC. THERE WAS ALSO THE NEED

TO TEACH CHICANO PEOPLE ABOUT

MEXICAN CULTURAL HISTORY, AND

THEIR APPROACH WAS ONE ABOUT

CREATING SUPPORT, ABOUT

CREATING COMMUNITY, ABOUT

CREATING INFRASTRUCTURE IN

ORDER TO SUPPORT OTHER ARTISTS.

I DO WANT TO HIGHLIGHT CARLOS

AS BEING--AND ANTONIO, ALSO--

AS BEING VERY IMPORTANT

CARRIERS OF MEXICAN CULTURAL

PRACTICES AND IDENTITY WHICH

THEY THEN BRING TO SELF HELP

AND THEN SHARE, AND THEN THAT

INTERACTION WITH SISTER KAREN,

WITH THE OTHER ARTISTS WHO WERE

THERE FORMS DIA DE LOS MUERTOS,

ULTIMATELY.

AVILA: THE VERY FIRST DIA DE

LOS MUERTOS WAS ACTUALLY 1972,

A VERY SMALL, SORT OF HUMBLE

GATHERING IN THE PARKING LOT

BEHIND SELF HELP GRAPHICS.

MEDINA: BUT THEN OVER THE

YEARS, THEY CONTINUED IT, AND IT

GREW AND GREW AND GREW, AND THE

COMMUNITY EMBRACED IT.

OFELIA: THEY HAD PROCESSIONS

FROM THE NEARBY EVERGREEN

CEMETERY TO SELF HELP GRAPHICS,

THE SITE ON THEN-BROOKLYN

AVENUE AND GAGE STREETS.

MEDINA: EARLY ON, THERE WAS A

CATHOLIC MASS THAT WAS OFTEN

CELEBRATED BY FATHER JUAN

ROMERO, VERY PROGRESSIVE,

CATHOLIC PRIEST.

CERVANTEZ: THERE WAS THE

PARTICIPATION OF DANZA AZTECA

AND SOME OF THE INDIGENOUS

CEREMONIES AND RITUALS, AS

WELL.

AVILA: YOU HAD EL TEATRO

CAMPESINO IN THE LATE SEVENTIES

JOINING ICONIC ARTISTS LIKE LOS

FOUR AND ASCO, WHO WERE

PARTICIPANTS IN THE VERY EARLY

YEARS.

OFELIA: I JOINED THEM AROUND

1979. I SAW A SIGN UP OUTSIDE

THEIR WINDOW AS I WOULD PASS

BY, AND SO I WENT IN THERE, AND

I MET SISTER KAREN, AND SHE

ASKED ME, "DO YOU KNOW

SOMETHING ABOUT DIA DE MUERTO,

DAY OF THE DEAD?" AND I SAID,

"OH, YES. I LEARNED IT FROM MY

MOTHER. WE PRACTICE IT," AND

SHE SAID, "OK. YOU COME BY

SATURDAY, AND YOU'LL BE--

YOU CAN WORK ON THE WORKSHOPS.

THERE'S LOTS OF WORK FOR YOU TO

DO."

AVILA: SHE'S SO CLOSELY TIED TO

OUR DAY OF THE DEAD TRADITION

AND SOMETHING THAT WE NOW

CELEBRATE EVERY YEAR, NOCHE DE

OFRENDA, WHICH IS SORT OF A

MORE REFLECTIVE, MORE SOMBER

EVENING THAT WE HOST. THAT WAS

HER BRAINCHILD, HER AND ONE OF

THE FORMER DIRECTORS, TOMAS

BENITEZ, AND SO THAT IS AN

ELEMENT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY

OFELIA'S CONTRIBUTION, AND I

THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE

KNOW THAT SHE'S THE PERSON WHO

REALLY BROUGHT THAT TO SELF

HELP GRAPHICS.

OFELIA: I BELIEVE WE CREATE A

SACRED SPACE WHEN YOU DO AN

ALTAR, NO MATTER HOW HUMBLE OR

HOW SIMPLE IT IS. THE INTENT IS

TO CELEBRATE AND HONOR OUR

LOVED ONES, AND SO IT BECOMES A

SPACE THAT IS A VERY SPECIAL

CALLING FOR THEIR SPIRIT TO

JOIN US.

MEDINA: THE ALTAR CONNECTS THE

SPIRITUAL WORLD WITH THE

PHYSICAL WORLD, ESSENTIAL TO

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, TO THE

CELEBRATION OF IT.

OFELIA: THE 4 ELEMENTS OF

WATER, FIRE, WIND, AND EARTH,

ALL THESE ARE SYMBOLIC IN THE

THINGS THAT ARE THERE.

ROSANNA: WE ALWAYS PUT IN AN

ARCH--THEY CALL IT A VENTANA OR

A WINDOW--TO CALL THAT LOVED

ONE, THEIR SPIRIT, BACK HOME,

LIKE, "HERE'S YOUR OFRENDA.

THIS IS HOW YOU GET HERE."

OFELIA: FLOWERS, PREFERABLY

MARIGOLDS BECAUSE THE MARIGOLDS

HAVE THIS VERY SPECIAL SCENT, A

STRONG SCENT, AND THAT IS ONE

OF THE ELEMENTS THAT BECKON THE

SPIRIT TO COME AND TO SEE THEIR

OFRENDA, AND SO THAT AROMA

CARRIES ON TO THE AFTERLIFE.

MEDINA: CANDLES TO LIGHT THE

WAY FOR THE DEAD, PETALS OF THE

MARIGOLDS STREWN ON THE FLOOR

AS A PATHWAY GUIDING THE

SPIRITS TO THE ALTAR.

OFELIA: MY MOTHER SAID, "YOU

ALWAYS HAVE TO HAVE A GLASS OF

WATER BECAUSE THEY'VE COME FROM

SUCH A LONG WAY, THEY'RE GOING

TO BE THIRSTY."

JOSEPH-WITHAM: ANOTHER ELEMENT

YOU'D HAVE IS COPAL INCENSE,

WHICH IS ALSO WIND, BUT IT'S

SOMETHING THAT WAS USED BY THE

AZTECS, SO IT'S ANOTHER WAY TO

CONNECT WITH THAT CULTURE.

MEDINA: AND THEN I WOULD SAY

ANOTHER KEY ELEMENT IS THE

STORYTELLING THAT HAPPENS AT

THE ALTAR, THAT WE CONTINUE TO

TELL STORIES ABOUT WHO WE'RE

REMEMBERING SO THAT HOW THEY

LIVED THEIR LIVES IS NOT

FORGOTTEN.

CERVANTEZ: IT'S MEANINGFUL TO

HAVE THOSE ITEMS ON THE OFRENDA

BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WE ARE

SHARING, YOU KNOW, WITH OUR

LOVED ONES AND OUR ANCESTORS,

THE THINGS THAT THEY LOVED IN

LIFE, BUT HAVING SAID THAT, I

THINK IT'S ALSO REALLY

IMPORTANT TO MAKE ROOM FOR

NEWER EXPRESSIONS AND

INNOVATIONS IN TERMS OF THE

OFRENDA.

MEDINA: THE TRADITION IS ROOTED

IN ART MAKING. AS MORE CREATIVE

MINDS APPROACH THE TRADITION

AND CREATE ALTARES, THEY'RE

GOING TO LOOK DIFFERENTLY, BUT

I THINK THE KEY ELEMENTS NEED

TO REMAIN AS PART OF IT.

OFELIA: IT DOESN'T HAVE TO LOOK

LIKE A TRADITIONAL ALTAR BUT TO

HAVE ELEMENTS THAT CALL THE

VIEWER THAT THIS IS HONORING

SOMEONE AND THAT THERE IS A

REVERENCE OF THE DEAD, AND I

THINK OUR COMMUNITY HERE IN LOS

ANGELES ARE DOING THAT, AND SO

THAT'S THE EXAMPLE YOU SET FOR

THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF OUR

CULTURE.

[PEOPLE SINGING]

JOSEPH-WITHAM: AS PEOPLE

MIGRATED TO THE UNITED STATES,

THEY BROUGHT THIS HOLIDAY WITH

THEM.

[MARIACHI MUSIC PLAYING]

WOMAN: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

ENCOMPASSES SO MANY ASPECTS OF

OUR LIFE. THERE IS THE

AGRICULTURAL PART WHICH IS A

CELEBRATION OF THE HARVEST. IN

THAT REGARD, THE MILPA AND

EVERYTHING THAT IT PRODUCES--

THE CORN, THE TOMATOES, THE

SQUASH, THE CHILES, THE BEANS--

THOSE ARE THE ULTIMATE TROPHY

WHICH THE LIVING NOW HAVE A

RESPONSIBILITY TO SHOW ON THE

ALTAR TO SHOW THEIR ANCESTORS,

THEIR LOVED ONES WHO HAVE

PASSED THAT THEY ACTUALLY

LEARNED SOMETHING FROM THEM,

SO IN THIS PLACE THAT WE CALL

OAXACALIFORNIA, THERE IS A

PRETTY IMPRESSIVE COMMUNITY OF

PEOPLE FROM OAXACA WHO SPEAK

INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES, AND WE

LIVE ALL OVER LOS ANGELES IN

EVERY SINGLE NEIGHBORHOOD, AND

CERTAIN TIMES OF THE YEAR,

THERE ARE CERTAIN TRADITIONS

THAT WE REPLICATE HERE IN LOS

ANGELES, SO IN REPRODUCING DAY

OF THE DEAD, ZAPOTECS HAVE THIS

RESPONSIBILITY TO DO IT

RESPECTFULLY AND AS CLOSE AS

POSSIBLE TO THE WAYS IN WHICH

WE CELEBRATE THIS BACK AT HOME

IN OAXACA SO WE COULD BECOME A

REFERENCE, AND HOPEFULLY, IT

WOULD FOR OTHER PEOPLE OR FOR

OUTSIDERS WHO MAY NOT KNOW THAT

THIS IS WHAT MAKES DAY OF THE

DEAD SO SPECIAL.

WOMAN: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

FLORES-MARCIAL: SO THE BREAD

HAS TO BE VERY, VERY

HIGH-QUALITY, VERY SPECIAL

BREAD. IT'S BASICALLY, YOU

KNOW, FAMILY THAT THIS IS WHAT

THEY DEDICATE THEIR LIFE TO,

PERHAPS, YOU KNOW, PERFECTING

THE RECIPE FOR DIA DE LOS

MUERTOS BREAD. SOME PEOPLE

MIGHT SAY THIS BREAD SYMBOLIZES

THE BODY OF THOSE WHO HAVE

PASSED, BUT YOU SEE THAT THE

BREAD HAS A LITTLE CORN STARCH

FIGURE WHICH HAS A HALO, SO

IT'S LIKE A SAINT. IT'S LIKE A

SPIRIT, SO IT CAN ALSO

SYMBOLIZE THE SAINTS THAT ARE

CARRYING OR THAT ARE HELPING IN

THE TRAVELS OR IN THE TRANSPORT

OF THE SPIRITS.

[MARCIAL SPEAKING SPANISH]

FLORES-MARCIAL: THIS IS, LIKE,

AN ABSOLUTE NECESSARY FLOWER

THAT WILL GO ON THE ALTAR BUT

THAT HAS THIS ADDED MEANING.

MARIGOLDS HAVE A NATURAL

INSECTICIDE. WHAT PEOPLE TENDED

TO DO WAS PUT IN MARIGOLDS

WITHIN THE MILPA, AND SO THE

MARIGOLDS PROTECT THE BEANS,

THE CORN, THE CHILES, THE

SQUASH, THE TOMATOES THAT GROW

WITHIN THE MILPA. THE MARIGOLDS

BECOME VERY IMPORTANT TO

PROTECT THE HARVEST, BUT THEN

YOU GET TO CUT THEM, AND THEY

ARE BEAUTIFUL AND ARE SO

VIBRANT, SO IN OAXACA WHEN

WE'RE IN OUR PUEBLO, THE FRUITS

COME FROM ALL OF THE DIFFERENT

REGIONS AROUND US, SO THESE

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES BASICALLY

SHOW THAT WE'VE CONTINUED SOME

OF THE CONNECTIONS WITH OUR

NEIGHBORS FROM OTHER REGIONS.

THOSE ARE ALSO IMPORTANT TO

SHOW ON THE ALTAR BECAUSE THEY

SHOW A CONTINUATION OF A UNITY.

THAT'S ONE WAY TO SEE THE

PRESENCE OF THE FRUITS THAT ARE

BROUGHT FROM DISTANT PLACES AND

PLACED ON THE ALTAR.

[MARCIAL SPEAKING SPANISH]

FLORES-MARIAL: IT IS THE TIME

TO REMEMBER OUR LOVED ONES AS A

MOMENT OF REFLECTION, A

CONTINUATION OF LIFE IN A

DIFFERENT PLACE, IN THE PLACE

WITHOUT WINDOWS OR DOORS, THE

UNDERWORLD, WHICH IS WHERE OUR

DECEASED ANCESTORS GO. IT'S A

PLACE WHERE PEOPLE GO TO LIVE A

DIFFERENT KIND OF LIFE...

WOMAN: PUT ON THERE.

GIRL: UM...

UP HERE.

WOMAN: OK. OK. HA HA HA!

GOT IT NOW. HA HA HA!

FLORES-MARCIAL: AND AS LONG AS

THE LIVING MEMBERS OF THEIR

FAMILY REMEMBER TO PLACE AN

OFRENDA, AS LONG AS WE REMEMBER

TO COMMEMORATE THEIR LIFE, THEY

WILL CONTINUE LIVING IN OUR

MEMORY.

GIRL: CINCO.

WOMAN: CINCO.

OFELIA: THE RECOGNITION OF THE

PLACES WAS LIKE GOING HOME IN A

WAY. FINALLY TO BE IN HUANIMARO

HAS BEEN AN EXPERIENCE THAT

WILL STAY WITH ME FOREVER. IF

I'M DOING THIS ALTAR FOR MAMA

POLA, I HAD TO JUST TRY AND

FIND MORE INFORMATION BECAUSE

ALL MY LIFE, I'VE BEEN WANTING

TO DO THAT AND I DIDN'T DO

ENOUGH OF IT TO LOOK FOR HER.

[WOMAN SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: SI. OK. GRACIAS.

IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S UNFINISHED.

ROSANNA: HA HA HA!

OFELIA: BUENAS TARDES.

WOMAN: BUENOS DIAS.

OFELIA: BUENOS DIAS.

[ALL SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OK. OK.

[ALL SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OK.

[WOMAN SPEAKS SPANISH]

OFELIA: OK.

[ALL SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OH, MY GOSH.

[WOMAN SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: AY...

ROSANNA: MY TIA NATIVIDAD

PEREZ, SHE OPENED HER HOME TO

US, AND WE STAYED THERE SEVERAL

DAYS, AND WE JUST TALKED A LOT.

YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST A LOT OF

TALKING AND STORYTELLING AND

THE FAMILY TREE AND WHO IS WHO.

OFELIA: YOU KNOW, I USED TO

HELP MY MOTHER MAKE ALL KINDS

OF FLOWERS. THIS WAS BASIC, BUT

JUST REMEMBER SHE WOULD MAKE

THOSE BIG FLOWERS FOR THE

WEDDINGS.

ROSANNA: MM-HMM. DID MAMA LUPE

LEARN THIS FROM MAMA POLA, OR--

OFELIA: YOU KNOW WHAT? IT MIGHT

HAVE BEEN, BECAUSE SHE TOOK--

SHE WOULD SAY THEY MADE ALL

KINDS OF DECORATIONS...

ROSANNA: OH, THEY DID? OK.

OFELIA: BUT JUST THIS STYLE OF

FLOWERS. THEN I JUST STARTED

TEACHING STUDENTS, AND THEN FOR

SELF HELP GRAPHICS, WE WERE

DOING ALL THOSE--

ALL THOSE WORKSHOPS, AND ALL OF

YOU KIDS DID IT, EVEN THE BOYS,

JP, AND, OH, YOUR DAD COULD

MAKE A LOT OF THESE FLOWERS.

ROSANNA: YEAH.

OFELIA: LOTS OF STORIES TOLD

DURING THE FLOWER MAKING.

ROSANNA: OH, YES.

[BIRD CHIRPING]

OFELIA: OH, HOW PRETTY.

OH, THAT'S BEAUTIFUL.

ROSANNA: SO PART OF THE PROCESS

OF CREATING THIS ALTAR WAS

LOOKING FOR HER IN THE

CEMETERY. MAMA POLA DIED IN

1937. THAT CEMETERY HAS

PROBABLY BEEN OVERCROWDED FOR

THE LAST 60, 70 YEARS, SO HER

MARKER IS NOT THERE.

[OFELIA SPEAKING SPANISH]

[MAN SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: UH-HUH.

[ROSANNA SPEAKS SPANISH]

[MAN SPEAKING SPANISH]

[ROSANNA SPEAKS SPANISH]

[OFELIA SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OH...

[MAN SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OH...

AY.

[OFELIA SPEAKING SPANISH]

OFELIA: OH, WELL, HE'S

WATCHING, BUT SO IS MAMA POLA.

ROSANNA: MM-HMM.

AVILA: PART OF THE REASON THAT

SELF HELP GRAPHICS EXISTS AS A

SPACE IS THAT THERE WEREN'T

SPACES SHOWING CHICANO LATINO

ART IN THE SEVENTIES. THEY

DIDN'T VALUE THAT WORK, AND

THEY DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT, AND

SO SELF HELP BECAME THE SORT OF

DE FACTO SPACE OF PRODUCTION

BUT ALSO OF EXHIBITION.

OFELIA: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT

SISTER KAREN WANTED WAS TO

SUPPORT ARTISTS, AND SO THEY

STARTED HAVING THE PRINTMAKING

RELATED TO DAY OF THE DEAD AND

THEN THE PRINTS BEING EXCHANGED

OR EXHIBITED OUTSIDE OF LOS

ANGELES, AND INCORPORATING THE

IMAGES FOR DIA DE MUERTOS

BECAME ALSO PART OF THIS

EXPANSION AND THIS POPULARITY.

AVILA: I THINK THERE'S

SOMETHING REALLY BEAUTIFUL

ABOUT THE WAY EACH ARTIST

INTERPRETS THE CELEBRATION AND

HOW THEY CHOOSE TO HAVE THAT

MANIFEST THROUGH A PRINT.

SOME OF THE PIECES THAT COME TO

MIND AND THAT SHOW THE

DIVERSITY ARE JOHN VALDEZ, WHO

DID A PRINT. IT ACTUALLY HAS AN

IMAGE OF JESUS AND THE IMAGE OF

A GENTLEMAN THAT HE HAD PICKED

UP OR COPIED FROM A MEXICAN

CRIME MAGAZINE, AND THAT WAS IN

THE EARLIER YEARS, IN THE

SEVENTIES, AND SO AGAIN YOU

HAVE THIS SORT OF IMAGERY

COMING TOGETHER AND THIS

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT DIA DE

LOS MUERTOS IS ALSO COMING

TOGETHER, INCLUDING SOME OF THE

CATHOLIC ICONOGRAPHY BUT ALSO

VERY REPRESENTATIVE OF THAT

TIME, ESPECIALLY FOR THAT

ARTIST. FAST-FORWARD A LITTLE

BIT DOWN THE LINE, AND YOU HAVE

GRONK'S PIECE, THE

10TH-ANNIVERSARY DIA DE LOS

MUERTOS PRINT. IT'S A PORTRAIT

OF THIS CHARACTER LA TORMENTA,

AND HE'S TALKED ABOUT HER

EARRINGS AND HOW HE MADE THEM

LITTLE, LIKE, SKELETON EARRINGS

AND THE SHAPE OF THEM AND HOW

HE WASN'T TRYING TO CREATE

SOMETHING SORT OF SCARY, BUT

RATHER PLAYFUL AND, AGAIN, VERY

REFLECTIVE OF THIS PARTICULAR

ARTIST, BUT NOT THIS EXTREMELY

TRADITIONAL AESTHETIC FOR DAY

OF THE DEAD.

FAST-FORWARD, 2012, WE HAVE

PATSSI VALDEZ AND HER PRINT

"DEDE STARRING IN THE SHG

REVIVAL PRINT," AND THAT WAS

ACTUALLY A TRUE COMMEMORATION

FOR A FRIEND OF HERS WHO HAD

PASSED, AND SO IT'S THE

ARTIST'S PORTRAIT, AND IN A

WAY, YOU ALMOST HAVE, LIKE, A

COMBINATION OF AN OFRENDA WITH

A PRINT. THE PRINTS HAVE REALLY

VARIED OVER THE YEARS

AESTHETICALLY IN TERMS OF

CONTENT AND THEME, PORTRAITURE

TO REALLY GRAPHIC PIECES, AND,

AGAIN, ALL REFLECTIVE OF THE

WAY THAT DIA DE LOS MUERTOS AT

SELF HELP IS VERY MUCH A SORT

OF CHICANO CELEBRATION.

MAN: I GREW UP HERE IN BOYLE

HEIGHTS WITH MY DAD, AND MY DAD

WAS A SINGLE PARENT, AND HE DID

NOT REALLY HAVE ANY INTEREST IN

RELIGION AT ALL, AND HE JUST

ENCOURAGED ME TO ACQUIRE

KNOWLEDGE AND READ BOOKS AND

THINK ABOUT THINGS FOR MYSELF.

MOST OF MY FAMILY, I THINK,

THEY WEREN'T TOO CONCERNED

ABOUT HISTORY AND ABOUT WHERE

WE COME FROM. THEIR CONCERN WAS

MORE ABOUT HOW WE SURVIVE NOW.

I DIDN'T HAVE ANY CONNECTION TO

DAY OF THE DEAD UNTIL I CAME TO

SELF HELP GRAPHICS.

SO THIS IS THE FIRST YELLOW

THAT WENT DOWN, AND THEN THIS

WAS THE MAGENTA THAT WENT OVER

IT, SO JUST THINKING ABOUT HOW

YOU BUILD LAYERS AND HOW YOU

BUILD A FIRE, AND THIS WAS

ANOTHER MAGENTA AND RED THAT

WENT OVER IT, AND THEN THIS WAS

A BLUE AND THEN A RED USING THE

SAME SCREEN, AND THIS WAS A

WHITE TO GO OVER THE STRIPE TO

COVER UP SOME OF MY MESS-UPS.

THIS YEAR, I'VE HAD THE HONOR

TO BE ASKED TO MAKE THE

COMMEMORATIVE PRINT FOR SELF

HELP GRAPHICS. THERE IS A

LINEAGE OF PRINT HERE FOR DIA

DE LOS MUERTOS, AND THERE'S A

LINEAGE OF PRINTMAKERS AND

ARTISTS. I THINK IT'S KIND OF A

BIG DEAL FOR ME, ESPECIALLY

SINCE I'VE BEEN VOLUNTEERING

AND WORKING HERE FOR A LONG

TIME.

AVILA: FOR DEWEY'S PRINT,

YOU'RE LOOKING AT A STATEMENT

AROUND THE RESILIENCE OF OUR

COMMUNITY, OF OUR ANCESTORS, AND

SEEING IT ACTUALLY, I THINK,

THROUGH A REMIX SORT OF POP

ICON THAT IS THE NIKE CORTES.

THE IMAGE ITSELF IS DEFINITELY

A SYNCRETIC PRODUCT BRINGING

FORWARD THE CORTES AS A

SNEAKER, REIMAGINING IT AS A

PROTECTIVE SHIELD, AND ALSO, I

THINK, HELPING PEOPLE

IMMEDIATELY GO INTO A

GEOGRAPHIC PLACE. WHEN YOU SEE

THE WAY THAT THEY'RE HUNG, YOU

KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THAT IS, WHAT

IT'S HANGING FROM, AND YOU CAN

ALMOST PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR OWN

MEMORY OF WHERE YOU WOULD HAVE

SEEN SNEAKERS HANGING FROM A

POWER LINE.

TAFOYA: AND I THINK FOR ME,

THINKING ABOUT THE SHOE AND WHO

WEARS THEM AND WHAT THEY MEAN

AND EVEN THE NAME OF IT,

CORTES, AND HOW CAN WE CHANGE

THAT UP, HOW CAN WE DECOLONIZE

THAT, THE IMAGE OF THESE

HANGING SHOES.

THE CONNECTION OF MY IMAGE WITH

THE DIA DE LOS MUERTOS HOLIDAY

IS ALL ABOUT RESILIENCE AND

MEMORY AND KIND OF HOW WE

REMEMBER THE PAST AND HOW WE

TAKE THOSE MEMORIES WITH US

INTO THE FUTURE, INTO OUR

SURVIVAL, AND KIND OF WHAT WE

LEARN HISTORICALLY, WHAT WE

LEARN ANCESTRALLY, AND TAKING

THAT KNOWLEDGE AND JUST

INVENTING OURSELVES.

CORTES WAS THE CONQUISTADOR,

AND CUAUHTEMOC IS ONE OF THE

LAST EMPERORS OF THE

[INDISTINCT] LINE WHO ACTUALLY

INTERACTED WITH CORTES, AND

CORTES ENSLAVED HIM, CAPTURED

HIM, AND BURNED HIS FEET TO TRY

TO GET HIM TO TELL HIM WHERE

THE GOLD WAS AT, SO THE STORY

OF CUAUHTEMOC AND CORTES

IS KIND OF THE STORY OF

RESISTANCE.

ROSANNA: OUR TRIP TO HUANIMARO

WAS REALLY IMPACTING BECAUSE I

FOUND THAT WHEN I WENT THERE, I

WAS HOME, AND MY EXPERIENCE

HERE IN EAST L.A. WAS HOME,

ALSO, AND THAT'S BECAUSE OF MY

GRANDMOTHER. MY MOM ALWAYS

SAYS...

[SPEAKS SPANISH]

AND WHEN I WENT TO HUANIMARO, I

RECOGNIZED THAT.

OFELIA: I SEE MY CHILDREN AS

CARRYING ON THIS TRADITION

AFTER I CAN NO LONGER DO THIS.

THEY HAVE BEEN HELPING ME,

FIRST WHEN THEY WERE YOUNGER

MAKING FLOWERS. IN FACT, I

ENGAGE MY GRANDCHILDREN TO MAKE

FLOWERS, BUT THROUGH THE YEARS,

THEY CONTRIBUTE TO THE

COMPOSITION, TO THE FOUNDATION.

MY SON ACTUALLY DOES MOST OF

THE BUILDING IT AND PUTTING IT

TOGETHER FOR ME, AND HE'S

MAKING AN ARCH FOR THIS ALTAR.

EL ARCO IS THE FOCAL POINT

BESIDES THE PHOTOGRAPHS.

ROSANNA: RIGHT NOW, WE'RE IN

THE PROCESS OF CREATING THIS

ALTAR TO MAMA POLA. WE'RE

TITLING IT "NAGUAS SABIAS."

"NAGUAS" IN THE INDIGENOUS

LANGUAGE IS SKIRT. IT'S A

SKIRT. "SABIAS" MEANS WISDOM,

YOU KNOW, WISE SKIRTS, SO WISE

WOMEN, THAT'S WHAT THIS OFRENDA

IS ABOUT.

WE'RE FOCUSING ON THE PUREPECHA

CULTURE, THE WOMEN OF THAT

CULTURE. THE WOMEN, THEY WEAR

THEIR BIG TRENZAS, AND THEY

LOOK LIKE THERE'S, LIKE, 50

RIBBONS ON EACH TRENZA. IT WAS

SO BEAUTIFUL, SO WE ADDED THEM

TO THE ARCH. WE'RE ACTUALLY

GOING TO CREATE THESE SKIRTS AS

THE ALTAR. YOU KNOW, THE ACTUAL

ADORNMENT AROUND THE TABLE WILL

HAVE THIS FEEL OF THE SKIRTS.

OFELIA: I BELIEVE IT'S AN ART

FORM. MAYBE IT'S CALLED FOLK

ART, BUT FOR ME, IT'S IMPORTANT

THAT ALL THE ITEMS AT THE END

COMPLETE A WHOLE COMPOSITION,

BUT I LIKE TO HAVE MANY

VIGNETTES WITHIN THE ALTAR

BECAUSE THEY TELL STORIES. THEY

TELL STORIES ABOUT THE PERSON

WE'RE HONORING.

THIS VIGNETTE HERE REALLY

ENCAPSULATES MY CULTURAL AND

SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE, I

BELIEVE, FROM MY MOTHER, WHO--

SHE WAS PASSED DOWN FROM MAMA

POLA. HER NOPAL CACTUS THERE

WAS A VERY IMPORTANT

SUSTENANCE, NUTRITIONAL

SUBSTANCE THAT I RECEIVED AS A

CHILD THAT MY MOTHER ALWAYS

TALKED ABOUT HER MAMA POLA

WOULD COOK FOR HER IN SO MANY

DIFFERENT WAYS, AND THEN, OF

COURSE, OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE.

THEY WERE DEVOTEES OF THE

VIRGEN. SHE WAS THE MERA MERA,

I GUESS YOU WOULD SAY, LIKE THE

MAIN WOMAN, AND THEN IN THE

BACKGROUND, THERE'S THAT

WREATH, THAT CORONA THAT I

LEARNED FROM HER. EVERYTHING I

LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER SHE

LEARNED FROM MAMA POLA.

HERE, IT'S A COMPOSITE OF MAMA

POLA AND MY MOTHER, OF THEIR

LIFESTYLE AND WHAT THEY

REPRESENTED FOR ME. I WOULD SAY

THE MUJERES DE MAIZ BECAUSE THE

FOOD THEY PREPARED, BASICALLY,

WAS CORN NIXTAMAL TORTILLAS AND

ALL THESE TRADITIONAL FOODS

THAT THEY WERE GREAT ARTISTS

WITH, AND SO...

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

AVILA: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS IS

NOT ABOUT REPLICATING WHAT

HAPPENS IN MEXICO. I THINK IT'S

ALWAYS BEEN ITS OWN CHICANO

INVENTION HERE ON THE EAST

SIDE, PAYING HOMAGE TO THE

TRADITIONAL WAYS BUT SPEAKING

TO THE ISSUES THAT ARE

EXPERIENCED BY THE COMMUNITY

HERE.

MEDINA: WE ARE RACIALLY MIXED.

THAT IS OUR INHERENT NATURE,

AND SO BEING ENRICHED BY

DIVERSE SPIRITUAL PRACTICES IS

VERY NATURAL FOR US. THERE'S NO

CONFLICT THERE AT ALL.

CERVANTEZ: AND SO THE ARTISTS

REALLY HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE

SHAPING OF WHAT DAY OF THE DEAD

LOOKED LIKE HERE, YOU KNOW, IN

CALIFORNIA AND ALSO THROUGHOUT

THE SOUTHWEST. IF YOU SEE MANY

OF THE WAYS IT'S CELEBRATED, AT

LEAST IN A PUBLIC MANNER, IN

THE CHICANA/CHICANO

COMMUNITIES, YOU SEE, FOR

EXAMPLE, THE DANZA AZTECA, THE

AZTEC DANCERS, AND THAT, I

BELIEVE, HAS ITS ORIGINS IN THE

FACT THAT IN THE EARLY

SEVENTIES, THERE WERE SEVERAL

MAESTROS THAT CAME FROM MEXICO

WITH THE INTENTION OF REALLY

TEACHING THE PEOPLE IN THE

CHICANA/CHICANO COMMUNITY

ASPECTS OF DANZA, CEREMONY,

RITUAL. THAT WAS A CONNECTION,

A DIRECT CONNECTION TO SOME OF

THE RITUALS AND CELEBRATIONS,

AGAIN, THAT WE HAD BEEN

DISCONNECTED FROM.

MEDINA: HERE IN LOS ANGELES,

IT'S A BIG CELEBRATION, I GUESS

AMERICAN-STYLE, IN A WAY, BUT

IT STILL IS--

IN OUR COMMUNITY, THE CHICANO

OR LATINO COMMUNITY, IT STILL

HAS THAT MEXICANESS, THAT

CULTURAL ASPECT OF IT, BUT IT'S

JUST, LIKE, ON A WIDER SCALE.

TAFOYA: IT'S GROWN IN A WAY

WHERE IT'S KIND OF NOT JUST

THAT RELIGIOUS CELEBRATION

ANYMORE OR THE INDIGENOUS

CELEBRATION. IT'S MORE OF A

BIGGER CELEBRATION THAT'S KIND

OF LIKE A PARTY.

[TECHNO MUSIC PLAYING]

WOMAN: TODAY WE'RE GOING TO BE

CREATING THIS DIA DE LOS

MUERTOS-INSPIRED LOOK.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: THERE YOU GO,

99 CENT STORE.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: AND SO IT'S

LIKE FACE TATTOOS.

TAFOYA: WE CAN GO TO TARGET,

AND WE COULD BUY A SUGAR SKULL,

AND WE COULD BUILD ALTAR FROM

ITEMS THAT WE COULD BUY AT

MICHAEL'S.

WOMAN: THAT DOES LOOK LIKE THE

ONE AT DISNEYLAND.

DIFFERENT WOMAN: OH, YEAH. YOU

CAN'T TRADEMARK DAY OF THE

DEAD.

TAFOYA: IT'S WEIRD.

[BOTH SCREAMING]

JOSEPH-WITHAM: POP CULTURALLY,

PEOPLE PICKED IT UP, SO THERE'S

FILMS ABOUT IT--"THE BOOK OF

LIFE" OR "COCO." IT'S BEEN

DISNEYFIED.

AVILA: OBVIOUSLY, THERE'S

SOMETHING REALLY BEAUTIFUL

ABOUT BEING ABLE TO SHARE PART

OF YOUR CULTURE WITH THE REST

OF THE WORLD AND HAVING IT BE

APPRECIATED.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT IS WHEN

THAT ELEMENT OF CULTURE IS

BEING APPROPRIATED AND USED AS

A MARKETING TOOL TO SELL BEER

OR LOTTO TICKETS.

MAN: "DIA DE LOS MUERTOS"?

AVILA: AT WHAT POINT IS IT TOO

MUCH, AND IS IT TOO FAR? WHEN

IT'S NOT ACTUALLY BENEFITING

THE COMMUNITY, IT'S JUST FOR

CORPORATE INTERESTS. THAT'S

SOMETHING I DON'T THINK IS

WITHIN OUR CONTROL.

[CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING]

BY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES, WE

ARE OUTSIDE OF OUR PUEBLOS. WE

ARE OUTSIDE OF OAXACA, AND SO

TRANSFORMATIONS WILL NATURALLY

OCCUR, AND I THINK THAT ONE OF

THE MOST VISIBLE CHANGES THAT

I'VE SEEN IN RECENT YEARS IS

THE MAKEUP ON THE FACE, FOR

EXAMPLE.

THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT WE DO

IN OUR COMMUNITIES, BUT I'VE

SEEN YOUNG ZAPOTECS PAINTING

THEIR FACES AND PARTICIPATING

IN MORE PUBLIC SHOWS OF DAY OF

THE DEAD CELEBRATIONS, WHICH

SEEMS LIKE A NATURAL

TRANSFORMATION.

CERVANTEZ: THE FACE PAINTING

REALLY WAS ALSO AN EXPRESSION

THAT CAME OUT OF THE ARTIST

COMMUNITY. AS I REMEMBER,

IN SOME OF MY EARLY TRIPS TO

MEXICO, I DID NOT REALLY SEE

FACE PAINTING AT THAT TIME. NOW

I THINK IF YOU GO TO MEXICO,

IT'S BECOME POPULAR, AND I

THINK PART OF THAT IS BECAUSE

OF THE INTERNET AND BECAUSE

SOME OF THE FILMS, YOU KNOW,

THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED

TO, BUT THE FACE PAINTING

REALLY WAS SOMETHING THAT YOU

BEGAN TO SEE MORE AND MORE IN

THE CHICANA AND CHICANO

COMMUNITY, AND, OF COURSE, THAT

WAS AN INSPIRATION OF THE

CALAVERA IMAGERY FROM MEXICO

AND FROM JOSE GUADALUPE POSADA

AND SOME OF THE ANCIENT, YOU

KNOW, SCULPTURES OF LIFE AND

DEATH AND DUALITY.

AVILA: THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE

MAKING THESE TRANSFORMATIONS

HAVE FAMILY WHO ARE CELEBRATING

THE WAY THAT WE CELEBRATE IN

OUR COMMUNITIES, SO YOU GET TO

HAVE KIND OF BOTH WORLDS.

THE YOUNG ZAPOTECS GET TO GO

OUTSIDE AND GO TO HOLLYWOOD

FOREVER AND PAINT THEIR FACE OR

GO TO SOME OF THE MORE PUBLIC

EVENTS BUT THEN MORE THAN

LIKELY RETURN TO THE FAMILY AND

THE COMMUNITY THAT CELEBRATES

IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY THAT IS

MORE PRIVATE.

CERVANTEZ: I THINK THAT'S WHY

IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND

WHAT THE ESSENCE OF ANY GIVEN

TRADITION IS, AND THAT GOES NOT

ONLY FOR THE PEOPLE THAT OWN

THOSE TRADITIONS AND ARE

PRACTICING THOSE TRADITIONS AND

SHARING THOSE TRADITIONS, BUT

THERE'S A RESPONSIBILITY FOR

OTHER COMMUNITIES WHEN THEY

EMBRACE OR WHEN THEY ADAPT DAYS

OF THE DEAD TRADITIONS. THERE'S

A RESPONSIBILITY THAT COMES

ALONG WITH THAT AND

UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT MEANS AND

NOT JUST EXPLOITING THE

SUPERFICIAL ASPECTS OF DAYS OF

THE DEAD. IT'S MORE THAN--

YOU KNOW, IT'S MORE THAN

PAINTING YOUR FACE LIKE A

SKELETON OR CALAVERA. THERE'S

MORE UNDERNEATH THAT, AND SO

THERE'S A RESPONSIBILITY THAT

COMES WITH THAT, I BELIEVE. IF

YOU'RE GOING TO APPROPRIATE OR

IF YOU'RE GOING TO BORROW OR IF

YOU'RE GOING TO DO THAT, YOU DO

IT WITHIN A MANNER WHERE YOU'RE

RESPECTFUL AND TRY TO

UNDERSTAND THE TRADITION.

OFELIA: WE'VE BEEN PREPARING

FOR THIS NIGHT FOR A LONG TIME,

ESPECIALLY THIS YEAR HONORING

MI POLITA TINOCO, MAMA POLA, MY

GREAT-GREAT-GRANDMOTHER, JUST

GETTING INSIDE HER SPIRIT,

LEARNING MORE ABOUT HER, GOING

TO HER BIRTHPLACE, THE PLACE

WHERE SHE DIED AND WAS BURIED

AND LIVED, AND IT'S BEEN A

WONDERFUL JOURNEY, AND I HAVE

MUCH MORE TO SHARE NOW WITH MY

CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN. THE

STORIES ABOUT MAMA POLA WERE

ALWAYS PRESENT. I'VE BEEN

PASSING ON THESE STORIES ABOUT

HER TO MY CHILDREN, AND I HOPE

THAT THEY PASS THEM ON TO THEIR

CHILDREN, AND THAT'S WHAT THIS

CELEBRATION IS ABOUT, OF

KEEPING THE MEMORY OF OUR LOVED

ONES ALIVE. I THINK THIS IS THE

MOMENT THAT--THE APPROPRIATE

MOMENT TO ASK ALL OF YOU TO

INVOKE THE NAME OF

SOMEONE--IT'S VERY HARD--IN

YOUR HEART THAT YOU'RE

REMEMBERING AND JUST SAY THEIR

NAME AND ALL OF US WILL SAY,

"PRESENTE."

MI POLITA TINOCO.

ALL: PRESENTE.

OFELIA: GUADELUPE SALAZAR.

ALL: PRESENTE.

OFELIA: AMARO ESPARZA.

ALL: PRESENTE.

OFELIA: ALBERTO AVILES.

ALL: PRESENTE.

[MARCIAL SPEAKING SPANISH]

[MARCIAL SPEAKING SPANISH]

ANNOUNCER: THIS PROGRAM WAS

MADE POSSIBLE IN PART BY A

GRANT FROM ANNE RAY FOUNDATION,

A MARGARET A. CARGILL

PHILANTHROPY; THE LOS ANGELES

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

THROUGH THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY

ARTS COMMISSION; THE LOS

ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL

AFFAIRS; THE CALIFORNIA

HUMANITIES; AND THE CALIFORNIA

ARTS COUNCIL.

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