Sunday, November 07, 2010

Living it up with the Dead

As the years keep adding up and the more I mature as an individual, I look forward to Dia de los Muertos with growing anticipation every year now. Maybe it's because of all the celebrations, shows and events going on through out the city, which there are plenty of, but for me, having one foot on both sides of life, I see things differently. I was born with a hole in my heart and was operated on when I was merely days/hours old. Can't remember which. I know I was born missing something and considering I was born with death at my side, plus having numerous near death experiences, death doesn't scare me like it does other folks. I embrace the day when it's my time to go and even though friends and loved ones have transitioned this year, there's a sense of ease and peace once as time goes on. An understanding of their lives and why we'll never forget them and continue to honor them.

Besides my own personal feelings and views on Day of the Dead, I have the honor and pleasure to be work with other people with other DOD celebrations, mostly Self Help Graphics and Arts Inc. They been doing it for 37 years straight and it's one of the oldest celebrations in the entire country. All of October I was volunteering on Saturdays at their community workshops creating crafts that were used on the big day. Through the guidance and wisdom of Ofelia Esparza, people are able to come and be part of the celebrations and learn some history about the day and the celebrations. She's freaking amazing !!

At school I was also doing an altar for a Chican@ Studies class about Mezo American Religion. It revolved around the concept of food, so my group and I created a dinner theme to go with the book we read and incorporating lectures from class. Places and chairs were set up for the ones we wanted to honor. I offered a seat to my grandpa, who I never got to meet and to Tam and Cynthia as well. One thing about being undoc is that you are always doing advocacy, raising awareness about the DREAM Act. It's part of our lives here and after.

There were other DOD celebrations around the city and I cruised by the ones I could attend. Truely, outside of Mexico, I think L.A. has the most celebrations for DOD with a different spin on it of course, but still keeping the traditions as much as possible. At the same time, it's when the rest of the city gets to be a part of the celebrations as well, learning and partaking in the traditions. This opens up the doors for people who might have never known about this celebration to be a part of it, which can be a double edge sword at times. Still, as long as the heart of the celebration doesn't change, like anything else in the world, it's open to interpretations and susceptible to change both good and bad.

In the barrio death is always around every corner. Whether your a victim or random violence, in the wrong place at the wrong time or in the line of fire, it doesn't change anything, but it also makes that loss that much more worse because it feels like the people who passed were stolen away. Robbed of life. Here in Boyle Heights, I found myself at the scene of two accidents, arriving at each 20 min after it happened. Watching people panic, feeling the miserable energy from the crowd and finding out later in news reports that tragedy had struck. The first was when an elderly man was hit by a car and killed, the car also hit the back of a school bus and injured students in it. The second was when a 19 year old dad killed with wife and 10 day old baby by driving an SUV into the side of their home in a fit of rage. Watching the two accidents first hand and then the aftermath of media coverage made me sick and angry at people. I still don't know what to feel or if I should be feeling anything.

For the SHG celebration, which was on the actual day, I made a simple altar for Tam, Cynthia and other undoc individuals who passed away or in some cased committed suicide because the DREAM Act is still a dream. A simple cap/gown, marigolds and some pics of them. I also made some butterflies to give to people who asked about the altar and have them write messages that will be passed on to them where they're at.

I helped organized the procession to the event, which is always a ton of fun. Painting kids faces, explaining what we're doing to them and seeing them have fun at the same time.

plus the kids love carrying around the calacas as we make our way to the event and start the opening ceremonies.

Of course the best part of the night is the music and dancing, which there wasn't a shortage of. The event was double if not triple the attendance from last year, and as always, it took an amazing set of folks to make it happen.

My celebrations ended in Santa Ana on Saturday. While there were tons of events going off here in L.A. I was looking forward to seeing how other peeps did DOD and it was amazing. I was able to get out of my L.A. bubble and got to see the celebrations through other peeps eyes. I felt to the closeness here more so than in L.A. partly due to the different dynamics of the cities and how the community is much more close nit than L.A. I saw tons more people on non-Latino decent jump in to the celebrations and interpret the celebrations in a more traditional way, rather than making it into some contest like Hollywood Forever. I was freaking awesome to see how the Orange County Dream Team held their own and did work. My hat goes off to them.

There's a great sigh of relief that the celebrations are over now, considering all the work that went into them. I'm looking forward to next years celebrations again and doing it even better than this year. It's a growing process and hopefully by next year I'll be that much more older and wiser. Funny thing is that while I was doing all this work, in the back of my mind I was still pondering on how it's been since things have taken a change for the better in my life and who I am as an individual. Last year during Halloween and DOD, I was heart broken in the love department. It was my first real heart break, something everyone can understand. It's been a full year and I've gotten passed it in some ways more than others, which is a good thing. I love that I'm where I was before I got into that relationship again. Live and learn and some lessons are just learned the hard way. I'm curious as to where I'll be in life one year from now. I'll be 27 and if things go right I will have transferred schools by then. Life and death are a circle and in celebrating one, we celebrate the other. Duality. Here's to your life. :)