Our Dia de Los Muertos celebration this year came in a form of a small dinner. I took the morning to put up this altar before everyone arrived to add personal photographs and items.
I have put together altares in the past, but this year it felt different.
This year I had my stepdad named Guilberto Rodriguez and a very close amiga named Marina Uranga Pando pass away, so naturally I felt more responsibility in putting together an altar with intentions and memories ingrained into it.
I have been taught that every part of the altar has a meaning. It is meant to honor those energies in our life that keep us in balance, like the elements, directions, family edlers, mujeres, hombres, and children.
As I was putting the altar together, it forced me to think about what it means to remember our ancestors? What does it mean to have ancestors visit you? To have them with you?
In thinking about Marina and Guilberto, I am pushed to piece together memories, feelings, thoughts, in essence meaning of a life on its own and as part of a community. It pushes me to acknowledge that everyone’s life has meaning and a purpose. That sometimes that meaning extends longer than what we will ever be able to live.
Placing objects in the altar is about taking an object, acknowledging it’s importance, and allowing that importance to connect and call out to those who have passed. Putting together an altar is a ceremony of giving importance and meaning. This placing of objects makes me think of how all of our communities are often given the opposite. Our communities in many ways are deemed meaningless and unimportant. It is that exact view of our communities that allows for us to be the center of soo much toxic waste.
In a domestic violence workshop we held in our community room, we were taught that violence isn’t always an action. Violence can also be the lack of action. Violence is also neglect. It is this neglect that allows for our life expectancy to be shortened. It is this neglect that allows for our communities to be surrounded by so much violence.
As I place objects and acknowledge it’s meaning, I can’t help but feel a level of anger. As I place meaning for our dead, I think about how many lives has this neglect shortened? How many years not spent with family and friends is this neglect responsible for?
At times I feel like Marina speaks to me. She doesn’t speak to me in voice, but through the meaning that her actions took within my life. The stories that where shared with me. Through the underlying anger that she carried in her actions driving the need to fight against the violence that our communities face. The anger that pushes us establish that we exist, we are alive, that we have meaning.
This is how I speak with my ancestors. Their life is full of decisions that carry meaning well beyond a single life. I didn’t know all of them, but I know of them, and their actions. Those actions have meaning and importance in my life.
So I set up this altar to honor those ancestors- children, elders, mujeres, hombres.
To honor them by re-membering them. By piecing and sowing together objects, memories, intentions, with meaning and importance.
I have come to understand remembering as a putting and keeping together.
It is to re-member those who I have or haven’t known of. To re-member my actions to theirs.
Los re-cuerdo. (To agree with again)
I re-member you. (To piece together again)
In Honor of:
- Guilberto Rodriguez
- Felicitas Ramos
- Unnamed nephew
- Queer uncle (name unknown)
- Marina Uranga Pando
- Those still haven’t met
by Xugo Lujan