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.”
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.
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.”
Doubly marginalized by their race and gender, Black women face so much of their lives combatting the stereotypes that anguish them. Worse, on a daily basis Black women are forced to find ways to thrive and succeed in their lives and careers by white-washing and invalidating their own identities.
Recently, women on Reddit shared the stereotypes that afflict them and it was pretty eye-opening.
Check this out below!
“The stereotype that our entire being is sassy and ghetto. Recently, I was at a friends for game night, we were playing Uno. I simply but jokingly was like “girl don’t look at my cards” and her entire family mimicked me but made it way more than it was like i had said “GURRRLLL DONT YOU BE LOOKIN AT MY CARDS” when that’s not how i said it… at all.” –y0aujani
“I hate the stereotype that we must want to be White if we don’t fit within the clearly defined list of actions and beliefs that society says black women are supposed to be (this stereotype is usually coming from other black people, which makes it sadder).
Oh look! That black woman dyed her hair a color that isn’t typically associated with black people. She clearly wishes she was White!
Oh my GOD. That black woman is dating a White guy. Doesn’t she know that she’s supposed to save herself for a black man?? She clearly wishes she was White.
Good Lord. That black woman likes country line dancing! This is humanity’s worst affront to nature! She clearly wishes she was White!
And so on. I mean, I get that “black” isn’t merely a skin color, it’s a culture. Doing things outside the customs of the culture can make it seem that we are ashamed of said culture. If I don’t like soul food, you can kind of see how that may come across as me looking down my nose at my own culture. But there has to be some kind of limit, where we can like different things and simultaneously have respect for our roots.
Do other cultures go through this? If a Scottish person doesn’t like haggis, are they given shit for not being ‘Scottish enough’?” –VintagePoet82
“My last name is Italian. I know this doesn’t come close to the crap you have to deal with on a daily basis, but admitting I don’t like tomatoes is usually met with “how do you call yourself an Italian?!” …Because that’s where my great grandfather is from?
My family still practices some cultural traditions that celebrate our heritage, but I HATE the idea of baskets delineated by racial stereotypes. People don’t fit in boxes. I’m not trying to be Jewish when I attend Hanukkah parties, I’m not trying to be Cuban when I dance salsa, I’m not trying to be Black when I braid my hair, I’m not trying to be white when I go skiing. I’m just trying to enjoy time with the people I love, and also manage these damn curls, wherever they came from.” C0USC0US
“This doesn’t happen since I moved, but happened a lot when I was a teen/young adult growing up in rural Pennsylvania. (By the way, on balance it’s a wonderful place. Like any rural area, you sometimes wish the people there were more worldly and educated than they are, but I still love Pennsyltucky.)
Anyhow, often times when it came up that I was (and still am) a huge hip-hop fan, someone would inevitably bring up that I was, ‘trying to be black.’ Or they would use an extremely derogatory slang word for a white person who is ‘acting black’ that I’m not going to repeat here.”- Langosta_9er
“I think that everyone in the world feels pressure to let go of their culture and fall into line with the Post-ww2 American consumerist canon. So the people remaining that wish to remain tied to their culture demonize those who embrace change (I’m not saying that the change is positive though).
In my case as an Indian you get pressure from both sides, if you’re too Indian you’re considered a luddite and might be given shit for not assimilating enough, but you might also get shit for not knowing some random shit about your culture depending on who you talk to. That’s just with 2nd gen immigrants though, it seems like 3rd gen are completely assimilated with just physical differences while 1st gen tend to go too much to the other side.
With black people there seems to be a movement for black pride and preserving the culture you’ve developed in spite of the constant pressure from the media and other white people to mix and assimilate into the new “neutral culture” and any form of “giving into that is seen as betrayal.
I used to be more towards assimilating and even wanting to be with white girls to “dilute my Indian genes” but now I’m starting to see how much I dislike the blandness of the “American” culture and part of me doesn’t want to assimilate as much anymore.
Do other cultures go through this? If a Scottish person doesn’t like haggis, are they given shit for not being “Scottish enough”?
I guess that’s where the “No true Scotsman” fallacy comes from.”- RagingSatyr
“Had one dude claim I was rolling my eyes any time I looked at him. I’m very quiet by nature, and extra careful with my words and tone. We can literally not do a damn thing, have no reaction, but will still get accused of having a bad attitude. We are often just fucked, no matter what.” –Kemokiro
“When you’re a black woman, you have to be strong, Super fucking Woman all the time but if you stand up for yourself, you’re an ‘angry black woman.’ But if you don’t uphold to strong stereotype and you any emotion other than strength like sadness, you’re weak and a black bitch with an attitude.” –beatlegirl95
“Idk where it was but awhile ago there was some post and in the picture there was a naked black girl and you could see her pubic mound (thehehe the phrase) . Comments starting pouring in like “omg wtf is that” “wow it’s just like a black hole isn’t it” “someone needs to get skin toner” so on and so forth. The only thing that gave me some hope is the highly upvoted comment along the lines of ‘ITT men and women who have never fucked or seen a black women naked’ Then it dawned on me; are black women so undesirable that a community, like Reddit ,that is seemingly obsessed with porn hasn’t even seen a black women naked, or is it just another way to put down women.” – mongoosedog12
“the angry black woman stereotype is by far the worst. you can never win with it i see people trashing black women and if i try to stand up for myself and other blacks people they claim i’m proving them right by having an attitude? i’ve literally seen where girls and latina girls act in the exact same manner, say the exact same thing and they are deemed as sexy while the black woman is ghetto and trashy.
people will legit interpret your actions to fit this stereotype like i’m an introverted person and people have said i was a bitch because i didn’t talk to them when another girl can do that and she’s just shy.
on multiple occasions i’ve looked in the general direction of an interracial couple (black man and other woman) and people said i was giving them dirty looks when i really do not care!
i also just hate the cognitive dissonance when it comes to the same thing with black men. most people would agree that it’s racist to generalize all black men saying they are all dead beat fathers, criminals, violent, etc but people seem to think it’s just a perfectly valid opinion to negatively generalize all black women. and it’s the worst when it comes from black men.” –woahwoahwoahwoa
“The fact that we are supposed to speak and act a certain way. The amount of times I’ve been called oreo just for the way I speak is disheartening. No, I’m not white on the inside thanks.” –moonscry
“What’s really annoying is when it comes from other black people. I had a cousin once say that I was so “white” that if I married a black man, my kids would come out biracial. These days, I try to treat it as a running joke because I see absolutely no reason to change myself to fit what “black” is supposed to be. I love Star Wars and video games and reading books by 19th century British women and dislike most rap music and I speak like any other educated person from the suburbs. This is who I am and people who believe that these things make me less black are the ones who have the problem.” –kaitco
“When I was really new to dating and desperate for love/attention/a bf, I ended up ‘dating’ this white guy… He would mention how he watches a lot of interracial porn and how his ultimate fantasy was to rent a plantation in Georgia and for me to be his sex slave…. I wish I was kidding.” –Stitch_Rose
“The worst thing I’ve had is being told I’m “too white” cos of how I talk. I grew up in a mainly white area and had more contact with my white side of the family (although my black family aren’t stereotypically black anyway), so why would I? Why must anyone with black in them be stereotypically black, am I not just as much white as I am black?”- RJturtle
“Dehumanization. If they don’t look at you with the empathy to acknowledge your humanity, they can justify anything that is done to you.
I suppose that’s a black problem to have in general, but it hits women hard too.” –AliceHouse
“I’m angry. I’m sassy. I’m ghetto. I could be a thief. I’m loud. I’m unintelligent. I’m close minded. I’m spiritual. I’m “manly”.
The only one that’s true for me is that I’m loud lol. And my GOD I hate the, “Wow! You speak very nice. You’re eloquent”. That’s a backhanded compliment; they expected me to sound a certain way JUST because I’m black. =A=; The fuck dude.”- FantasticHamburguesa
“I’m not sure I can pinpoint this to a specific stereotype, but when interacting with my customers, I’m questioned a lot more than my white or male coworkers. I often have to take male coworkers with me to deal with belligerent restaurant owners who just will not listen to me. It’s the racism+sexism combo, and it sucks. I’m not dumb because I’m black. I’m not dumb because I’m a woman.
When customers talk back or are rude, I have to try extra hard to be nice to them because they’re more likely to report be for being rude and hostile. It’s just their perception and it sucks so much. Edit: Remembered another one! My baby sister was born when I was 12 going on 13. I developed early and this lady in Kohl’s cooed at my sister, which scared her, causing her to reach for me. The lady said ‘Aw look, she just wants her mommy’ and I was like… what? Who? Me? I’m 13. There’s a comic strip that shows the difference in how white and black women are treated, I wish I could find it.
It also had a panel about how it’s assumed black people go to college because we’re simply minorities and filling up seats. Nope, I earned my $22k/year scholarship, thanks.” –TheYellowRose
“I hate the stereotypical backhanded comments. The “You speak so well, where did you grow up?/ You talk white”, the “You’re so pretty for a black girl,” or the worst one “It’s okay, you’re not really black though.”
First of all, I don’t remember there being official perimeters for being black and if there are, I sure didn’t get the memo. Just because I’m not generally outspoken, I like nerdy/geeky shit, and I have a white fiancé does not mean in any way I’m less black.
I also really hate it because not only does that comment imply to be black is something to be ashamed of or something lesser, it also negates all the bullshit I’ve have to deal with on a daily basis. Like oh, well you don’t see me as “black” but the store attendant that followed me through the entire Sprint store because he assumed I was there to steal something sure thought I was black enough.
I hate that I can’t fight back against any of these comments because I’ll be labeled an “angry black woman”. Nothing is more frustrating than to have legitimate reasons to be upset but if your octave goes up even a little, everything you say is invalidated because you’re just “an angry black woman complaining about everything.” –Slightlydazed49
“That I’m poor because I live on the south side of Chicago. I’m not smart & I look like I have a bad attitude/mean.
What’s so funny is, I was at a Walmart in Iowa, I was talking about all the places I’ve been to over the last 10 years and I was talking on the phone with my mom. Some white lady just kept looking at me in shock like….WOW. Then when I mentioned to having family in Toronto, Canada, her eyes got big as hell. Again, at Walmart, white woman clutching her purse….I go to pull out my wallet, just to fuck with her, , (oh and in my wallet, I have many credit cards, one of them is a beautiful platinum discover card), anyway she was looking shocked, like how did she get that.” –imtherealistonhere
We have exciting news for die-hard fans of the beloved Pixar movie, “Coco”. Disney+ has just premiered an adorable short film that gives audiences a glimpse into the “average day in the afterlife” in the Land of the Dead.
The 2-minute film is called “A Day in the Life of the Dead” and features various calacas going about the daily lives.
The short film is part of a series called “Pixar Popcorn” that started streaming on Friday. The series will feature a variety of short films inspired by different Pixar movies, including “Toy Story”, “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles”, and of course (and most importantly)…”Coco”.
“A Day in the Life of the Dead” is as beautifully animated as the 2017 film is.
The 2-minute film is animated with the same lush, vibrant colors of the original film and rendered with Pixar’s signature creative vision of the Land of the Dead.
And to make things more exciting, the movie is littered with cameos from fan-favorite characters like Mamá Imelda, Héctor, and the jaw-dropping arrivals agent.
In fact, one of the funniest vignettes is when the arrivals agent repeatedly loses his jaw bone, including when he tries to take an (unsuccessful) bite of cortadillo.
In other parts of the short film, we watch calacas riding a tandem bike, exercising, playing with cute animals, and attempting to keep their heads on straight–literally.
But of course, most of the humor of the short film comes from the inherent comedy of skeletons try to accomplish daily tasks when their bodies keep falling apart.
But “A Day in the Life of the Dead” isn’t the only Pixar short film that’s part of the “Pixar Popcorn” series. There’s tons of cute shorts that will keep you or the little kid in your life entertained for a while.
The series also features the short films “Dancing With the Cars”, “Soul of the City”, “Chore Day: The Incredibles Way”, “Dory Finding”, and “To Fitness and Beyond”, and more. There are eleven short films all together–the perfect amount to binge in one sitting!