Culture

Mexican Students Build A 100 Year Deathiversary Ofrenda For Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata

For most of us, Día de los Muertos is a day spent with family, remembering our abuelos and sitting by an intimate altar with plates of flan, orange marigolds, and a few chupitos for good measure. This year, a Mexican high school has dedicated their campus to a stunning, giant ofrenda for revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, on the 100 year anniversary of his death.

The assembly of the ofrenda took ten hours and over one thousand students, 90 teachers, and 15 staff. Since its completion late Monday, the school has opened its doors to the public and given over one hundred visitors student-led tours of the altar. 

In keeping with tradition, the ofrenda is divided into seven levels.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Those levels represent the gap between the underworld and our world and help the souls travel back to earth. The bright orange, sweet-scented marigolds are meant to be a sensory guide to the deceased. The Emiliano Zapata Preparatory School will celebrate its 50th year anniversary next year. On the 100 year anniversary of their namesake’s death, the school ensured Zapata would be honored.

“May our traditions never die,” the school posted to Facebook in Spanish. “A thank you to all the students, administration, tutors and teachers at the Language Academy for this splendid work.” With one post, their ofrenda went viral, with thousands of shares and likes. 

The ofrenda is 40 feet long, and uses over 200 candles.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Dozens of sugar skulls, fruit, tortillas, and traditional Mexican dishes are placed on the altar. “The classic figure of the leader on the right side and we placed a more contemporary version with the representation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) on the left side,” Ricardo Valderrama Valdez, the school’s director, told El PaísTo help with the portraits of Zapata and the Zapatista soldier, poblano plastic artist Alejandro Teutli donated large sketches to the ofrenda. 

Then, the students colored them in with dyed sawdust.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Considering that this is sawdust, we have to acknowledge the excellent shading methods used on Zapata’s cheekbones. Parents are flooding the Facebook comments with Spanish praise from moms, “Congratulations!!! to both shifts how beautiful they got, very good work chic@s, my princess is lucky to be part of that institution. 😋” The dads are coming through with comments like, “Excellent!!!!! Never forget our ancestors. Remembering is living……”

It took the school well over ten hours to create the ofrenda.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

We started Monday at seven in the morning with the students of both shifts and it ended at five in the afternoon. The students were very excited to participate, each in their own way,” Valderrama Valdez told El País. Taking a day off school to commemorate an indigenous hero? Yes, please.

Zapata was a major figure in the Mexican Revolution, specifically leading the cause of campesinos, or farmers.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

He led the revolt in Morelos, and garnered enough supporters to form the Liberation Army of the South. Their joint mission was to protect “Land and Liberty.” Zapata was the Robin Hood of land. He and his army took land from the wealthy and redistributed it to the poor. He was assassinated on April 10, 1919 by the Mexican government. 

Zapatismo remains an ongoing movement in Mexico to advocate for indigenous rights to land. 

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

In 1994, a guerrilla group in Chiapas started calling themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), in honor of the ideology that Zapata passed down. The group refuses to align itself with any political classification, though many observe the Robin Hood nature of their mission as libertarian socialist. 

Today, the EZLN is focused on civil resistance. Like the Zapatistas of the early 1900’s, the group is indigenous-led, seeking indigenous control of natural resources. Instead of engaging in militant activity with the Mexican government, it’s peaceful protest strategy is attracting more international and local support. Their flag is black with a red star in the center.

Today is the last day the ofrenda will be open to the public.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

“Offerings are something that must happen from generation to generation, it is something we want to convey to our students beyond academics,” Valderrama Valdez told El PaísIf you live nearby, you’re welcome to receive a tour from the students anytime from 9am to 6pm today. Felicidades, students! This is one for the books.

Mexico City’s Annual Día De Muertos Night Bike Ride Broke Records And It Looked Incredible

Culture

Mexico City’s Annual Día De Muertos Night Bike Ride Broke Records And It Looked Incredible

Omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Dia de Muertos may have officially happened over a week ago (it takes place from November 1-2), however, that isn’t stopping Mexicans from celebrating.

Sure, Mexico City had its massive Desfile de Día de Muertos last weekend and the incredible Mega Procesión de Las Catrinas on the weekend before but this weekend the celebrations continued. And this time, it took place in the form of a massive nighttime bike ride through the city’s most busy boulevards.

Mexico City’s Dia de Muertos night bike ride broke records with nearly 150,000 people coming out to celebrate.

A record 147,500 people took part in the annual Day of the Dead night bike right held Saturday in Mexico City, according to the city’s transportation secretary.

Riders showed up in elaborate costumes and disguises and completed an 18-kilometer route (about 11 miles) along the city’s famed Paseo de la Reforma. The route took the riders through some of the city’s most popular districts and along some of its most popular monuments. The ride then ended in the historic center of the capital city.

A costume contest at the Angel of Independence monument, live music at different locations and the screening of short films promoting the use of sustainable transportation at Plaza Tlaxcoaque complemented the bicycle outing.

Families and even their pets participated in the 11-mile ride.

Mexico City Transportation Secretary Andrés Lajous, who participated in the ride, told the newspaper El Sol de México that one of the most gratifying aspects of the event was to see young children enjoying their city at night. Many families took part including some that took their pets along for the ride, which took place between 9:00 and 11:00pm.

As violence continues to rack Mexico, events like this show highlight the positive events and moments in a country battling rampant drug violence. For many, the event offered a sense of pride as they were able to enjoy their city by night.

The night bike ride was just the latest in a series of major events in the city to celebrate Dia de Muertos.

For many, Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is synonymous with sugar skulls and elaborate ‘Catrina’ face painting. In reality, it’s a two-day festivity that lights up Mexico with colors, flowers, candles and a seemingly omnipresent joy.

Every year, on November 1st and 2nd, Mexicans take part in the adored demonstration of love and respect for their deceased relatives. And though the country’s capital is full of cemeteries to celebrate, plazas decorated in beautiful ‘ofrendas’ and lots of ‘pan de muerto’ weeks before the celebration, there’s one special day in CDMX when visitors will get to see a huge group of beautifully decorated Catrinas walk down the street in a parade celebrating life and death.

This year marked the 6th year that the parade took place. And more than 150 thousand people participated despite cool and rainy weather. Plus, there were nearly 200 professional makeup artists getting everyone looking like the famous ‘Calavera Catrina.’

However, not everyone was able to enjoy their night as some complained of police brutality.

While the vast majority of participants had an enjoyable and safe night, one young woman said that she and other cyclists were attacked by at least 20 police officers late on Saturday.

Twitter user @malitriushka said that after Reforma avenue reopened to traffic at about 11:00pm, the safety of cyclists riding on the road was threatened by an aggressively-driven Metrobús.

The woman said that she and other cyclists approached police to ask for assistance but were beaten and accused of theft. “As a cyclist, as a woman, I saw the situation and decided to help. Now I have fractures and am accused of theft,” she wrote on Twitter. “They beat me and with false testimony they say I stole a hat,” the woman said in another post.

She also said that her boyfriend and three other people were detained by police and that their cell phones, which had recorded the incident, were confiscated.

Here’s The Woman Behind The Stunning Marigold Bridges In ‘Coco’ And Her Ofrenda Art

Culture

Here’s The Woman Behind The Stunning Marigold Bridges In ‘Coco’ And Her Ofrenda Art

Javier Rojas / mitú

This weekend is sure to be a special time at the Hollywood Bowl as Disney and Pixar’s Coco will be screening a live-to-film concert experience like no other. Stars like Miguel, Eva Longoria, and Benjamin Bratt made appearances at both screenings and the iconic film was accompanied by a full, live orchestra.

However, there was one other star making her presence felt this weekend. While she might not be taking the stage or even be known to some, she is a legend in the world of Día De Los Muertos. Meet Ofelia Esparza, who for the last 40 years she has been behind hundreds of ofrendas, or alters, honoring loved ones who have past.

Her work has been featured in some of most famous museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Japanese American National Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, internationally at the first Day of the Dead exhibit in Glasgow, Scotland. Just last week, Esparza and her daughter, Rosanna Esparza Ahrens, had an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

This weekend, Esparza and Ahrens showcased a three-level ofrenda right outside of the Hollywood Bowl venue. The ofrenda greeted guests attending the showings of “Coco.”

Credit: Javier Rojas

Esparza, 86, who was born and still lives in East L.A, has devoted most of her life to creating alters. She learned many of her craft skills from her mother in Mexico and in return has passed on these traditions to her nine children. For Esparza, alter making is more than just a form of expression but an obligation that has made its way through multiple generations to honor loved ones who are now gone.

While Esparza has never met her great-great-grandmother, she knows of her through years of alter-making. Without this craft being passed down through multiple generations, she says she might have never known much about her and credits this tradition for intimately connecting her.

“My mother passed this on to me at a very young age and it always stuck with me that I have to carry on these traditions because if we don’t then who will,” Esparza said.

Using an array of photos, candles and vibrant carnations, Esparza’s alters stand out for their use of giant multilevel structures. The alters range from personal, political and even spiritual. Her work has garnered her many awards including just last year when she was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as a 2018 National Heritage Fellow.

“I’m touched that people look at my work and want to learn more about this. It goes beyond just Día De Los Muertos but celebrating and honoring those who have past,” Esparza said. “To me that’s the biggest honor, being able to teach people about what alter making is really about.”

Esparza has followed through with many of the traditions her mother taught her at a young age and continues to pass this on. In her 40s, she became a school teacher where she included Mexican culture into her curriculum, including Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. This has included speaking at schools, museums, community centers, prisons, and parks throughout LA county and across the country.

Her expertise and passion for alters led Esparza to be a cultural consultant for “Coco.” Many of the scenes, including the famous flower bridge, were ideas that came from her.

Credit: Javier Rojas

Esparza was approached by Disney and Pixar to be a cultural consultant for the Oscar-winning film. She says that many details and scenes seen throughout the movie came from some of her feedback including the famous marigold bridge scene where ancestors cross over into the land of the living on the Day of the Dead.

“I gave them a lot of feedback on certain things including what the bridge that connects the two worlds of the living and the dead represents,” Esparza said. “It was incredible to see that come to life and for people to resonate with that message of crossing over into two worlds.”

When asked about the popularity of the film and what it means for new generations to learn about Día de Los Muertos, she says it makes her happy and only asks of one thing.

“I want people to know that Día de Los Muertos is more than just putting on some skull paint but a true honoring of those who are no longer with us.”

READ: Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires