|Long live the dead|
|Thursday, 18 October 2012|
20th Annual Muertos y Marigold Parade celebrates the deceased and South Valley culture with extravagant costumes, lowriders, altars and more
By Denise Marquez • photos by Seth Jacob + Deanna Nichols + Mike Radigan
There are number of traditions, found around the world, that celebrate unique customs which have been handed down from generation to generation. That might mean placing a tooth under a pillow in hopes of a visit from the tooth fairy, or chasing the end of a rainbow to find a pot of gold. One custom in particular starts every year at the stroke of midnight on Halloween, when the dead can come back to life.
El Día de los Muertos celebrates those who’ve gone before us and whose lives are remembered by living loved ones. Celebrated on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, and Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, El Día de los Muertos involves an elaborate display of devotion to the deceased through an extensive amount of art work portrayed through costume and extravagant altars.For the past 20 years, the South Valley has demonstrated quite a spectacular interest in the holiday, hosting the Muertos y Marigold Parade as a community effort. In an interview with Local iQ, parade organizer Maria Brazil explained, “It’s a cultural celebration and a way for people to express pride in the South Valley community and continue traditions of expression and satire.”
Sandra and Jorge Castro were among the first organizers of the parade, which started in 1992. Their hope of creating a celebration that would highlight the cultural traditions of the South Valley has thrived for two decades and has become a community collaboration.
“People from all over the community participate,” said Brazil. “Freedom of expression, making art and building community is such an amazing experience.”Death definitely does not come quietly at the parade. A pandemonium of exquisitely designed skull-faced characters dance, sing and march their way down the street with a number of imaginatively-constructed floats. Skeleton puppets and sculptures tower over audiences as they sway to and fro in procession with the parade.
Along with a crowd dressed in their best afterlife apparel, the parade makes its way to a full-blown Day of the Dead fair. Fine art, folk art and crafts, all related to El Día de los Muertos theme, can be found from many local vendors.
“We are a grassroots parade,” said Brazil. “We hope that people from the community come to sell and express themselves freely through their art and crafts.”
Local music and Mexican-inspired dances are performed, but the main attraction is the astonishing altars on display. Altars are set up to honor the memories of lost ones who’ve had significant influence on the living. El Día de los Muertos is the day when the divide between the dead and the living can be crossed over, making altars an appropriate structure to welcome those in the afterlife back to the life of the living.
Altars can consist of a picture of the remembered one, items they were fond of, the deceased’s favorite foods, a cup of water for enduring the long journey back, candles and marigold flowers, among other things.
Not only is the parade a celebration of death but also of life, each year the parade has a particular theme that highlights political or cultural struggles from the past year. “We always try to have a theme, its roots come from artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, an artist and print maker in Mexico, who used visuals of death as a way of doing political commentary,” said Brazil. “He used images to poke fun at politicians.”
Themes that have been used in past Marigold Parades have included issues like workers’ rights (“Dead Workers Walking”), political fat-cats (“Slumdogs, Gatos Gordos and Hoodrats”) and the recession (“Recession Procession”). This year’s theme “20 años y Qué -z 20 Years of Raising the Dead” not only celebrates the past 20 years of the parade, but empowers people to stand up, make noise and raise their voice.
“We encourage folks in the South Valley to participate and experience this event and other parts of the city to come and see the culture and what the South Valley has to offer,” said Brazil.
“Slowly it has grown, and the best part of it is people get the chance to experience the South Valley in a different way,” said Brazil. “Some people have a bad idea of the South Valley, but people get a great experience and meet a great community.”
Though the parade holds themes of Halloween, it is not meant to be seen as linked to the modern celebrations of the holiday. The organizers want the people to laugh or even cry but not feel that they have experienced something gory, ghoulish or traumatizing.
El Día de los Muertos has been seen as a sacred day of remembering and connecting with lost lives, and has been that case for the past 3,000 years. Ironically enough, the tradition continues to be celebrated — and lives on — because of death.