This past Saturday and Sunday I attended two events for El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). At Saturday’s event there were a series of altars, a wall of remembrance, and Aztec (Mixtec) Danzantes were there to bless the altars and perform. Sunday’s event was at two locations. The college art gallery and the Steinbeck Center. Both locations had art exhibits and a procession came from the college to the Steinbeck Center. Once there a group of Aztec Danzantes performed.
Each event brought to mind all the people whom I’ve lost in my life. My brother, grandfather, uncle, mom, aunts, friends. I thought about my own mortality and wondered what people will remember about me when I pass on. What will my story be? What will I do with the life I have now?
Traditionally on El Dia de los Muertos, colorful altars are made with photos of the deceased along with small items of what they liked. Candles, water, and flowers decorate the altar as well. In Mexico, their grave sites are cleaned and decorated while the family stays late into the night eating and singing their favorite songs.
At times I feel like this celebration brings sadness in remembering my mom but it always ends with celebrating her life and reminding me of the life I still have, and the things I have yet to do. I am reminded that my time here is short and am inspired to life with purpose (even if it self-indulgent).
A few years back I was practicing Aztec Danza when I ran into a ethical dilemma. Typical regalia for ceremonies are adorned with feathers, and as a Vegan, I was in no way comfortable in wearing them. I searched for imitation feathers, but found none. This is when I decided to stop until I could find some way to reach a solution. It was a bit hard because I loved the ceremonies. I missed the unity, the early mornings, the smell of copal, and thundering of the drums and the sounds of our rattles and steps. There is a strength in each dance, a purpose in each move and an energy steeped in survival. Life from death.
I am considering returning to Danza, if only to attend practices. I am certain that I will find an alternative to feathers (even if I have to make them), and hopefully I can return to ceremonies in a Vegan regalia. I could always perform at ceremonies without regalia. I have done it before, but I grew uncomfortable in being around so many feathers, conch shells, leather wraps and such. But it was brought to my attention that it is no more than the daily surroundings I already have in my life.
So I am inspired again to paint, to dance, to create, to continue in uncertainty, even if it is a day at a time.