Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day of the Dead

Puppet from 2010 El Dia de los Muertos parade in Petaluma

I've been totally remiss about reporting on my experiences with the "Day of the Dead" or "El Dia de Los Muertos" events in which I participated. I am a member of the Petaluma Art Center. I have participated from the sidelines for several years now. A couple of years ago, Nancy McDermott invited me to a DOD event at the Art Center. I became intrigued with the idea and started my research.

Local couple dressed for parade

I volunteered on several occasions, selling decorated T-Shirts to the guests. I have attended the events for the last few years, so I knew what to expect when viewing the ornate altars, decorated by loved ones. That didn't stop me from getting lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes as I viewed the messages to their loved ones. I think these tributes are amazing to honor those we love who have gone before us.

Ornately decorated gentleman who participated in the parade.

I first volunteered at a poetry reading at the Petaluma Art Center. As we set up chairs, no one was sure how many would attend. Who wants to go to a Poetry reading on a Friday night? Well, the event was very well attended, and because my job was to sell T-shirts, I was seated away from the poets. But I could get an idea of their thoughts. Some used comedy in their poems, some were straight forward. Some were heart-wrenching, the poet barely being able to speak their work. I was enthralled, not only by the poems, but by the audience response. They urged the poets on and were generous in their appreciation. A pot luck followed the readings and I was introduced to Pozole and a Mexican chicken stew with some of the most flavorful chilis (from Santa Fe). They were so good I searched the internet to replicate them. Yummy!

Artwork by a local painter.

I also volunteered for the main celebration, which included a procession from downtown Petaluma to the Art Center. Over 1,000 people participated. Mariachi bands, Ballet Folklorico, Aztec Indian dancers and just regular folks, some carrying large puppets, some gloriously costumed carrying lighted candles made their way up the Boulevard and down Washington Street to the center where they enjoyed dance demonstrations by the Aztec dancers and several
Mexican dance groups. I enjoyed seeing so many Petaluma families with children who joined in the festivities. Food vendors cooked up enchiladas, tamales, churros, corn on the cob and many other delicasies. Some artists also staffed booths showing their wares.

A food vendor who made up for the night.

I also participated in the take-down of the exhibit at the Center. Families with little children attended, removing the offerings on their alters. Organizers also provided food, including homemade enchiladas, Albondiga (meatball) soup (yummy), shrimp, fabulous rice and even brownies. Sangria was lusciously laden with lots of fruit. and I had my first mojita(sp?) Amazing. And it will be my special drink for the summer get-togethers as it is so refreshing.

So I encourage you to learn about the celebrations surrounding the event. I believe Petaluma has the largest but I noticed Sonoma and Santa Rosa were also commemorating the event.

This may not seem art-related, but I was so inspired by the images, who knows what may be represented in my future work.

Comments are always appreciated. Thanks.

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