Sunday, October 24, 2010

Me at the Rose Hills Dia de Los Muertos event

Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary, billed as the world's largest memorial park, held their first ever Dia de Los Muertos event on Saturday, October 23. My friend Janelle Gonzalez (Luna Sol Books) invited me to sign at her booth, and considering Rose Hills is just a few miles from where I live, how could I resist?

The grounds here are enormous, and the actual event was held way up the hills by a chapel. The entrance to the chapel had this nice looking skull greeting you as you entered: 

Inside the chapel, the featured artist was none other than Lalo Alcaraz, the cartoonist behind the La Cucaracha newspaper strip. I told Lalo that he had now hit the big time, literally holding court in the Church of Lalo! He told me he felt like he was burning up....

 Outside the side door of the chapel was were the majority of the event was taking place. Luckily, while the temperature was cool and cloudy, it never rained, much less sprinkled.

I imagine because of the name recognition behind Rose Hills, there were throngs of people, mostly of the family variety, with lots of kids in attendance. Similar to the feelings I had a few weeks ago at the Latino Book & Family Festival, there was a great sense of culture, history and community in the air. Just last weekend I was up in San Francisco at an independent comic book convention, and now I was in the middle of an event celebrating one of the most unique of Mexican cultural traditions, one on which I took plenty of inspiration from in the creation of my comic book.

Some of the people who stopped by had actually seen the film on cable or at one of film festivals we exhibited at. I actually had a few people look very surprised to find comic books, as they hadn't read any in years and years. Being the only comic book at an event is very advantageous, and having a comic that specifically intertwines the character's origin directly into the Day of the Dead is even better! I met a lady who remembered me from about 5 years ago when I spoke at a Career Day at a local elementary school, and she asked me for my contact info to invite me back. I actaully told her that I always remembered that event, because when they marched the little 3rd & 4th graders into the auditorium where I was speaking there eyes were starring at me excitedly as they walked to their seats!

I think the thing that really stood out to me at this event though was the numerous ofrendas that were on display. Ofrendas are the altars that are built in memory of loved ones who have died, and really that is the cornerstone of what Dia de Los Muertos is about. Taking the time once a year to commemorate a loved one with an ofrenda filled with memories and mementos of that person. Each ofrenda I saw was very well made, they were simple yet beautiful displays of love.

One of my uncles is actually interred in Rose Hills, not that far from where the event was held. Uncle Manuel passed away in 2007.

It was a particularly difficult time for our family because exactly one week after Unlce Manuel's funeral, my Uncle Greg passed away.

Greg & Manuel were actually the two Uncle's that I was closest to, having lived in our area pretty much all our lives. Manuel was my mother's brother, and Greg was married to my mother's sister.

Greg always reminded me of a Mexican Archie Bunker, with a sharp wit and a lovable heart of gold. Manuel was more of a loner, always on the move but always taking time to visit us.

I'd like to dedicate today's blog post to their memories. Looking through some old photos of the two of them reminded me how much they're missed. But also, as long as I remember them, they're still part of my life.


er1c said...

HI this is Veronica and Eric we met you today at the Uptown Whittier Dia de los Muertos event and you posted a picture of our alter from the event at Rose Hills. It's the first alter picture you posted, THANKS!

Girl With Chalk said...

OMGosh! What a great event!

X said...

interesting side note, that Chapel is where they shot a scene for Star Trek.