Raíz y Rama: At the Crossroads to Mictlán
Self Help Graphics and Art: 40th Anniversary Día de Los Muertos Celebration
La Calavera Pocha newspaper
November 2, 2013
In 1973, a group of artists from Self Help Graphics and Art, Inc., celebrated their first Día de Los Muertos. By Bringing this spiritual practice to Los Angeles, Chicanos and Mexicanos took a centuries-old tradition, and re-contextualized it. Day of the Dead was not only a way to commemorate the dead and commune with ancestors. It became a way of establishing identity, a vehicle for protest, and a way to publicly mourn and process the harsh experience of loss at a time when veterans were returning from Vietnam. Día de Los Muertos at Self Help Graphics and Art, through art workshops and the participation of the community and artists, created a sense of family and a colorful spectacle. The visibility of this event stood in sharp contrast to the outsider’s gaze that viewed the Eastside only as a blighted community, historically marginalized and wracked by gang violence.
Today, Self Help Graphics and Art celebrates its 40th anniversary and continues the tradition of Día de Los Muertos, the largest celebration East of the Los Angeles River. The holiday is now entering the mainstream in the United States and has been appropriated by corporations seeking to gain access to “Hispanic” markets, companies creating mass-produced products and by those who use it simply as an aesthetic to decorate their parties. This acceptance into the mainstream sheds the meaningful and sacred aspect of the tradition and is not a reflection of the origins of Día de Los Muertos as a millenial, spiritual practice that is rooted in the tradition of our pre-Columbian ancestors. It is a ritual celebration that has inspired scholars, poets and writers who have added depth and meaning to its festivities and the artwork that surrounds it.
Raíz y Rama: At the Crossroads to Mictlán is a celebration of art that exhibits the complex understanding that artists now possess about Día de Los Muertos as a result of many years of scholarly work, knowledge gathering and community participation. Their art is rooted in traditions that span thousands of years back, yet will prove relevant and meaningful to present and future generations. The Mexica idea of the Toltécal, the artist, as a sincere “dialogue with one’s heart, one who meets things with their mind” is present in all these artworks, literary pieces, and scholarly works, placing before us a visual ofrenda of their visions of Day of the Dead.
Artists included: Pavel Acevedo, Michael A. Amescua, Gloria Enedina Alvarez, Tomas Benitez, Instituto Gráfico de Chicago, Xolo Collective, Béatrice Coron, Chicomecoatl, Endy, Ricardo Estrada, Ofelia Esparza, Ella Maria Díaz, Carribean Fragoza, Colin Gunckel, Dr. Carlos Manuel Haro, Omar N. López, Regina Marchi, Lara Medina, Rebeca Méndez, Stephanie Mercado, Jennifer Gutierrez Morgan, Reyes Rodríguez, Arturo Ernesto Romo-Santillano, Victor Solis, Luis Alaberto Urrea, Sybil Venegas, Linda Vallejo
My First Memories of El Dia de Los Muertos at Self Help, by Linda Vallejo