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Mexican Communities Around The Country Are Honoring El Paso Victims With Día De Muertos Ofrendas

Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is November 2, and ofrendas are popping up all around the country to honor the El Paso shooting victims. The annual Mexican tradition is a time of reflection and celebration of lives lost. Each year ofrendas or altars are created with tokens, photos, and sentimental mementos of those who passed.

This year ofrendas all over the country will commemorate the 22 El Paso shooting victims who were killed in a targeted attack against the Latinx community on August 3, 2019. The incident occurred when a 21-year-old white male drove 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to shoot “Hispanics.” 

The man killed 22 and injured 26 patrons of a Walmart, 20 minutes after posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto to a social media website used by white supremacists. The shooter talked of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The rhetoric was not unfamiliar to anyone who has tuned into President Trump’s rallies where he once referred to Mexicans as rapists. 

The Latinx community is still healing and Dia de Muertos is a great opportunity to begin suturing up the wounds. 

The Mexican Cultural Insitute in Washington D.C.

The Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. will have an altar for El Paso victims during their Dia de Muertos celebration on November 2. The event will also include dance, music, food, and performances. 

Mexican artist Enrique Quiroz will create the altar that will honor the 22 people who were killed in the gruesome mass shooting. According to DCist, the altar will also include tributes to prominent Mexican icons that died in 2019 like humanitarian León Portilla, singer José José, and artist Francisco Toledo. 

The Mexic-Arte Museum in Texas altar will honor El Paso victims.

 The Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged local residents to contribute photos, messages, and sentimental items to their altar. It has been on display since September 13 and will remain until November 24. Meanwhile, the museum puts on the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration on October 26. 

“The violence targeted our community,” Mario Villanueva, the museum’s marketing and events associate, told the Statesman. “As Mexic-Arte Museum, a safe space that amplifies Mexican American and Latino culture, it’s our duty to let the community know that we hear your pain.”

The ofrenda entitled “Ofrenda a Nuestra Comunidad Internacional de El Paso,” has had a positive response in the area with many offering to participate and provide items. 

“Some of them were hurting,” Villanueva said. “They just want to help in any way possible.”

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

“Day of the Dead Xicágo is just getting started and more than 90 ofrendas are set up! This altar is fondly dedicated to Felipe Ruiz and Andrea Sebastian Arzate, who are remembered for being loving and caring grandparents. Come see more altars created by people of all walks of life and share in their heartfelt stories,” the museum wrote on Instagram. 

At the “Love Never Dies Ball,” on November 2, the National Museum’s ofrendas will feature El Paso victims as well children separated at the border and those who have died in ICE custody. The Chicago Latinx community has been outspoken about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“The motives behind the El Paso massacre were clearly directed at Latinos, and they were rooted in the damaging rhetoric that came into the national spotlight when Donald Trump began using words like ‘invasion’ and ‘drug dealers and rapists’ to describe immigrants crossing the southern border,” the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago advocacy organization, said in an August statement. 

Hip Latina reports that other Day of the Dead celebrations in Texas will take place at Houston Community College, University of Texas at El Paso and local churches. Each will honor the victims of the El Paso shooting. 

The El Paso Walmart will open its doors for a memorial. 

The El Paso Walmart where the shooting took place will reopen its doors on November 14. The store will not hold a celebration so much as a memorial for the victims. 

“This will not be a celebratory atmosphere or environment,” Todd Peterson, vice president of Walmart and regional general manager, told KERA news. “We’ll just simply open the doors.”

Peterson also unveiled a mockup of a permanent tribute sculpture that will be on the south side of the parking lot of the store. 

“The focal point…will be a grand candela,” Peterson said. “Twenty-two individual perforated aluminum arcs, grouped together into one, single 30-foot candela, symbolizing unity and emanating light into the sky.”

Family members and survivors of the shooting will be able to view the memorial privately before the public. The Cielo Vista Walmart has not opened its doors since the shooting on August 3. While they may not exactly be Dia de Muertos ofrendas community members have already created a makeshift memorial to the victims. 

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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