October 25, 2004
Next week, families will begin to lovingly create altars of photos, flowers and figurines in an ancient Mexican tradition to honor the memory of the dead.
Candles will be lighted and gravestones will be brightly decorated as Hispanics across the East Valley celebrate Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, on Nov. 1 and 2.
The colors, folklore and masks of the Mexican tradition will come alive on stage in a one-man show Wednesday night.
Jorge Rodriguez Eagar, a Spanish and Spanish humanities instructor at Mesa Community College, will combine storytelling, video and masks in a free presentation to keep alive the richness and diversity of Mexican traditions.
Eagar said the Day of the Dead starts with the ofrenda, or temporary altar, that is built in a prominent room in the home.
"On the night of the first, you are supposed to create a path of marigold petals from the outside to the ofrenda," Eagar said. "The scent will help the ancestors find their way back to the home so they can be with you in spirit."
The next day is a big party, with large families camping around the gravestones of loved ones until late into the night.
"They spend all day sitting around catching up on old times, eating lunch,
decorating graves," Eagar said. "And it’s so beautiful to see the whole cemetery
ablaze with candles."
Eagar said he worries how modernization in Mexico will affect the Day of the Dead, which also competes more and more with Halloween.
"People are more interested in innovations the U.S. has to offer than retaining many of their own sacred traditions," he said.
What: "Ofrenda — An Ancient Mexican Tradition Honoring Ancestors" presentation
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Mesa Community College at Red Mountain, 7110 E. McKellips Road