Liz and I attended the Dia de los Muertos festival in Mesa today. The Mesa Arts Center hosts the event annually. Beside the usual food court vendors, there is live music, and an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars.
Traditional Mexican families build altars in remembrance of deceased loved ones in the weeks or days leading up to November 1. The altars consist of imagery and items to comfort the loved ones in their life beyond.
It is a sign of disrespect to photograph personal altars – the first place ribbon went to an awesome personal altar. All altars contain an arch, and at least two tiers. A photograph of the deceased usually graces the top. Altars are built on a table that is reserved for the purpose.
Traditionally the arch is made of marigolds, which symbolize death. Their fragrance helps lead the dead to the altar. Candles and incense also help guide the spirits back to the altar.
Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is placed on the altar. Sugar skulls and salt are also necessary items – the salt represents the continuance of life, the skulls are gifts. The altars are packed with water, fruits and food to nourish the spirits. Of course, since spirits cannot eat or drink, they gain nourishment from the essence of the food. After the Day of the Dead celebration, the foods are then distributed to the family.
Mundane items are also presented on the altars, such as toothbrushes and perfumes – after all, the spirits do need to maintain some level personal hygiene. There is nothing worse than a ghost with bad breath.
The Mesa Contemporary Art Museum (no admission fee) has three galleries, and the quality of the art is always exceptional. The theme this month is The Circus. The first gallery contained beautiful photographs – not digital images but old-fashioned photography – of portraits of acrobats. Warning – nudity! The second gallery was an amalgam of paintings, found objects and glass sculpture – some of the works were downright creepy.
The third gallery contained large pencil drawings of circus scenes – at first I thought they were oil paintings. The artist used colored pencil on birch panels. He is an Arizona transplant from Pennsylvania Amish country.
Tonight we are relaxing – dinner will be porkchops on the grill. They are marinating right now. I took Liz to the Dog Run for dinner last night for her birthday. Her birthday is Monday, but I have to work, so we decided Friday would be good. We tried to get into Captain’s, but the Snowbirds had the place packed.
Liz and Steph are conspiring on a trip to Tombstone and Tucson for early next year. It will have to be an overnight trip, as Tucson is a two hour drive from AJ. It is an easy drive – just hop onto the 202 to I-10 and take the 10 all the way in. I can’t wait.