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Hispanic Caucus Has Dedicated A Day Of The Dead Altar To The Migrants Who Died In Us Custody

The first official Day of the Dead altar on Capital Hill was installed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this week to honor migrants who have died in U.S. or while attempting to enter the country. The ofrenda includes photos of 14 people, many of them children, who died on their journey to acquire United States citizenship. 

This isn’t the only ofrenda in the capital. According to MSN, Marilyn Zepeda, a legislative correspondent to Mexican-American and Arizona Democratic Representative Raul M. Grijalva has created an altar to honor political giants like Elijah E. Cummings lost this year, and Latinx American activists like Cesar Chavez. 

While the office of Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has an altar with green, blue, and pink colorful sugar skulls, fruit, and Mexican candy. 

The ofrendas come at a critical time where Latinxs are better represented in government, but face increasing rates of hate crimes and threats to their personhood due to increasingly hostile rhetoric and policies by the Trump Administration. Solidarity among Latinxs in congress is critical right now. 

CHC puts their ofrenda on display in the Lincoln Room on Capitol Hill. 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus placed their display in the Lincoln Room, named after the president in 2018 by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. Formerly utilized by Abraham Lincoln while he was a member of congress from 1847-1849, the symbolism of having an ofrenda in there is notable. 

“This tradition brings family and friends together to remember those who have died and typically includes an altar ornamented with gifts, food and toys,” CHC Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) told The Hill.  “We are proud that our altar stands in the U.S. Capitol this week so we can collectively uplift each of their stories and remember the brave folks who sought a better life in our country.”

For Representative Tony Cárdenas the tradition reminds him of his parents who came to the United States from Mexico. 

“To me, this is a perfect display of what our country should stand for, which is for people who are fleeing, literally, for their lives. People who are leaving the country that they love to come and start new in a country that inevitably if they live, they will come to love like my parents did,” said Cárdenas. “It’s perfect.” 

Latinx members of congress put ofrendas in their offices.

“It’s important, culturally and historically, spiritually, whatever your higher power is, I think it’s important because it’s a connection to people that have passed, a remembrance, and I think it’s good not to forget,” said Grijalva, who like Rep. Garcia, has had a Día de Muertos ofrenda in his office every year.

According to MSN, Grijalva has photos of Cesar Chavez, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who died Oct. 17, and former House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., who died October 27. 

However, for Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán, who learned about ofrendas through Disney’s Coco, says the altar is bittersweet because of what it says about our country. 

“I think it’s sad that we have to do this,” said Barragán of the ofrendas for dead migrants.  “We have to continue to honor them and their memory to remind ourselves of the fight that we have now and need to continue to forge ahead. But we shouldn’t have to do ofrendas for migrants that are dying on U.S. soil.”

Representative Peter Aguilar echoed the sentiment. Aguilar, who keeps photos of his deceased relatives including his grandmother, believes the altar is a great way for CHC, in particular, to acknowledge the issue with ICE. 

“You don’t want to ever see anybody up there but I think it’s an appropriate way for CHC to honor our culture and honor those individuals who made the sacrifice and the journey,” said Aguilar.

Members of Congress say the ofrendas could humanize migrants to others. 

After seeing a photo of Oscar and Valeria Ramirez, a Honduran father and his 2-year-old daughter who died on their dangerous journey across the border, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer expressed remorse. 

“My heart breaks for Oscar and Valeria and other families who have perished while seeking refuge in the U.S.,” he wrote on Twitter. 

 Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard believes the ofrendas will remind people that amidst all the politicizing at the end of the day migrants are human beings facing unthinkable obstacles. 

“There’s a lot of attention on the wall and all these other things, and my concern is that we’re losing the focus in terms of that we are talking about people who are escaping horrific conditions in their country, that they’re good people, they’re looking for a better — not just a better life, but just to protect their children,” said Roybal-Allard

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.”

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