Artist Amalia Mesa-Bains




An ofrenda is a temporary offering to the dead and is ephemeral and is time related. An altar is a permanent on-going record of a family’s culture and spiritual history within the home. What attracted me to the altar, because my grandmother kept one and my mother in a different way, was that women were in charge of them. The husbands might build them but the women tended to them.

The ofrenda appeals to me because I like the temporariness of it. That’s the greatness of it and the glory of it, is that you will throw everything into it. It is the deepest sign of your love for that person because you give it everything and you only have it for a few days.

Chicano Altar

So I took on myself to do [an ofrenda] to Dolores Del Rio because she was this bicultural phenomenon. Someone else would do Diego Rivera, or people who do Posada or later when Cesar Chavez died, all of this country people made ofrendas. I think the Day of the

Dolores Del Rio Altar

dead is our generation’s way to constitute a history in a spiritual and sacred way. Each person that you pick for an homage had some attributes and characteristics that inspired you and that affirmed you.

Day of the Dead Celebration

I see the Day of the dead or the Days of the dead as a chance to maintain our traditions, our poetry, the forms of our offerings and the ofrendas but also to cope with the stresses, the losses, the death, the suffering that we go through as a community. I always talk about memory as the bridge between the living and the dead, between the past and the present. It is memory that through the ofrenda, allows us to never lose someone.