Hey queridos—this is such a big week—Halloween and Día de los Muertos both. I’m already exhausted just thinking about it! But I gotta tell you–I’m up to here with everyone being all—oh isn’t Día de los Muertos the same thing as Halloween? I’m all—no—completely different!
And it is—but now I’m discovering some history that tripped me out. Did you know that the immigrantes irlandeses brought Halloween over to these shores in the late 1800’s? The Irish are the ones that came up with jack o’ lanterns. Over in Ireland the tradition at this time of year was to carve turnips into faces and put a candle inside—the ancient religion in Ireland saw the head and skull as a source of power.
So when the Irish got over here, they said, pues, no turnips? We’ll carve pumpkins—and everybody liked it and joined in. The Old Ones, the ancestors in Ireland, believed that on October 31st the veil between the living and the other world grows thin so we can commune with our dear departed and our ancestors.
But here’s the thing—at this time of year Latinos celebrate Día de los Muertos. And this tradition has its origins in another ancient people. The Día de los Muertos goes back to the celebration of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the underworld. And , of course, over the centuries Mexicans and now Chicanos have transformed Día de los Muertos into the Day of the Dead celebration we know today. But isn’t it cool that the Irish ancestors and our ancestors here in the Americas understood the power of remembering our loved ones at this powerful time of year! Que cosa!
So this week, we have a video precisely on Dia de los Muertos. We asked installation artist Amalia Mesa-Bains to tell us all about Día de los Muertos and why it is so important to Latinos.
Also this week we conclude our story of the birth of El Teatro Campesino with “El Teatro Campesino 3,” the factors that led to the group splitting from the United Farm Workers Union and creating their own Centro Campesino Cultural in 1967. And in literature we have another Luis Torres book review, this time it’s a book that takes on the topic of whether graffiti is art or vandalism, the book is “Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles” by Francois Chastanet and Howard Gribble.
So have fun–and don’t forget to celebrate the Ones that went before us!