Culture

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

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

Today’s Google Doodle Is All About Lotería And You Can Play A Few Rounds With Your Friends

Culture

Today’s Google Doodle Is All About Lotería And You Can Play A Few Rounds With Your Friends

Google

Google is pulling on my Mexican heartstrings! The most popular search engine, which from time-to-time uses its homepage logo as an interactive gateway to educate the public about historical figures and cultural traditions, has over the years celebrated Mexican heritage in beautiful and innovative ways. From honoring Mexican-American icon, Selena Quintanilla in 2017 to Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday in 2010, Google is doing a remarkable job of paying tribute to the people and traditions close to our Mexican heart. And today’s honor is just as touching. 

Google is celebrating the most beloved game in Mexican communities, the Lotería!

Credit: Google

Perla Campos, Google Doodle’s Global Marketing Lead, is one of the people responsible for pushing Google’s innovation team to celebrate Mexican culture. She’s the one responsible for pushing the Selena Google Doodle for two years before its premiere. She did the same for the Lotería. 

A smile instantly comes to my face every time I think of Lotería,” Campos wrote on the Google page. “I think of being with my extended family in Mexico for the holidays, scattering around my Tia Cruz’s house, anxiously waiting for a round to start. I think of us tossing beans at each other in attempts to distract the other from our boards. Most importantly, I think of the laughter, the excitement, and how all the worries of the world melted away as this game brought us together, even if just for a few hours.”

The Lotería Google Doodle isn’t just a visual that shares the story of its history but also an interactive game that people can play with friends or strangers.

Credit: Google

Google states that this game is their second-ever multiplayer experience. Campos said that Google was looking to incorporate an interactive game and, of course, she told them about the Lotería. 

“Upon being prompted to think of possible interactive Doodles to create for the following year, Lotería almost instantly came to mind,” Campos said. “I wondered: If this simple game was so magical and powerful in its original state, how might that be amplified in the digital space? And so the Lotería Doodle was born.”

Playing the Lotería that we have played all of our lives and playing the Lotería Doodle is two different things. Here’s why. 

Credit: Google

As I launched into a round of Lotería on the Google page, I surely thought I was going to win until I realized the Lotería playing card didn’t have all of the recognizable characters and icons. In other words, Google reimagined the Lotería card — as other artists have also done with the Lotería card — to fit their brand. So, people will see an “emoji” icon or “la concha.” 

What makes this card and game extra special is that the Lotería Doodle was illustrated and created by Mexican artists.

The guest visual artists that worked on the Lotería Doodle include Mexico-based Chabaski, Mexico-born Cecilia, Hermosillo-born Luis Pinto, Los Angeles-based Loris Lora, and Mexico City-based Vals.

It was exciting to collaborate with five Mexican and Mexican-American illustrators to reimagine many of the classic Lotería game art for the Doodle—along with some new cards for a fun sorpresa!” Campos stated on the Googe page. “We also partnered with popular Mexican YouTuber Luisito Comunica, who serves in the iconic role of game card announcer for the Doodle.” 

Each artist also shared their favorite memories of playing Lotería. 

“I remember when I was around 6 years old, my mom and aunts would gather around a table and play for hours until we had to go home,” Chabaski said. “We would bet a couple of pesos, which made it more fun.”

The Lotería Doodle still honors the traditional game and educates a new generation of people about its origins. 

Credit: Google

“Although it has changed a great deal since being officially copyrighted in Mexico on this day 106 years ago, Lotería is still wildly popular today across Mexico and Latino communities, whether as a Spanish language teaching tool or for family game night,” Campos said. 

Okay, so you’re ready to play?!

Credit: Google

Click here and play with friends or strangers. And, if you want to make the game extra exciting play at home with your laptops and include some money for each round. Nothing wrong with making a buck and having fun. 

READ: 25 Times Latinos Have Graced The Google Doodle

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

Things That Matter

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

BBC / Twitter

The Sahuaraura manuscript is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian history and culture. This piece Peruvian history, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half. Placed under the care of the then Public Library of Lima, the document disappeared in 1883 inexplicably—and now, over a hundred years later, it’s been found.

A part of the history of Peru, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half.

Peru National Library

During the Pacific War from (between 1879 and 1883), a manuscript of great value, was lost. Placed under the safekeeping of the then Public Library of Lima, the document was mysteriously lost.

“Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana, ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas”

Twitter @dossieroficial

The document titled “Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana,ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas” was a historical treaties written by hand by the priest, scholar and national hero, ‘Justo Sahuaraura Inca’, whom, it was believed, was a descendant of the sovereign, Huayna Capac, third Sapan Inka of the Inca Empire, born in Tumipampa and the second to last ruler over the Tahuantinsuyo empire.

The document disappeared for nearly 150 years.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

It wasn’t until 2015, when, by chance, the Sahuaraura manuscript was found thousands of kilometers away. The document was lost for nearly 150 years, nowhere to be found.

It was discovered in Brazil

instagram @shane.lassen.russlyonsedona

As it turned out, a family in Sao Paulo, had had it in their possession for over four decades —and hoped to sell it in the U.S. during a high profile auction by the renowned auction house, Sotheby’s.

Peruvian authorities are organizing an exhibition to show the document publicly in celebration of its return to Peru.

twitter @laurasolete123

After four years of formalities and paperwork, the Sahuaraura manuscript is finally back where it disappeared from, the now National Library of Perú. And to celebrate its return, authorities have organized an exhibition to show the document publicly for the first time. The return of the document took place just last week, and it was amongst 800 other historical and archaeological pieces including Incan ceramics, textiles and bibliographic materials that were all stolen decades ago —and that the Peruvian government finally located and retrieved from 6 different countries.

Of all the objects rescued, the manuscript holds a place of special importance for Peruvian history.

Peru National Library

The Sahuaraura text is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian historiography and the cultural value of the manuscript is ‘incalculable’. “Only this copy exists,” explained the Ministry of Peruvian Culture, Francesco Petrozzi, “and it tells us, very clearly, about a period in our history that we must all know about and study closely.”

It took, Sahuaraura, a member and descendant of the Incan noble family, years of research, consulting archives and documents —now lost— to be able to construct his primal history of Peru with data cited, very rarely, on other works about the arrival of Spanish conquistadors into this region of the continent.

The Sahuaraura manuscript includes an illustrated genealogy study.

twitter @peruturismo

The book also goes into great detail about the genealogy of the rulers of the vast pre-columbian territories that conformed the Incan empire with its capital in Cusco, which provides a huge insight into the history of the region to modern researchers.

The manuscript details Peruvian history, from the foundations of the empire, until the largest indigenous rebellion against Spanish rule in the region.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

The text starts from Manco Cápac, who was thought to be the first ruler and founder of the Incan culture, and follows history all the way up to Túpac Amaru, the indigenous leader who fronted the largest anti-colonial rebellion in Latin America in the XVIII century.

What is known of Sahuaraura, the scholar himself?

Museo Histórico Regional de Cusco

The priest and scholar is an icon of Peruvian culture and history. He was born towards the end of the XVIII century and he was the son of a leader of one of the regions of Cusco, which is why some chroniclers believe he belonged to the highest lines of Incan nobility.  He became a priest and joined the Catholic church, which named him synodal examiner of the bishopric and general liaison with six provinces of Cusco.

It is said that he received Simon Bolivar himself —a Venezuelan military and political leader who led the independence of what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from the Spanish Empire —in his own house, and that the libertador gave him a medal for his services toward the freedom of Peru.

Sahuaraura also documented important literary works of the Incan empire in his works.

instagram @manu_elera

Among the many other manuscripts that the scholar worked on, and that also compile different aspects of Incan history, there is a literary anthology of the empire. This document includes the codex of Ollantay drama, considered by some, the most ancient expression of Quechua literature.

Sahuaraura himself went missing.

instagram @purochucho

Nothing is known about the death of this scholar. Sahuaraura himself went missing from Peruvian history at a time unknown. All that is known is that he retired somewhere in Cusco, and no one ever knew anything about him after. There is no information on the place or date of his death.