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This is the first piece to promote a new store that will be opening on September 1st. It will feature fine Mexican Folk Art, vintage and new. Next projects will include designing the exterior sign for the store and then... the website! The owners are first class people and I am honored to be part of their endeavor.
(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
And here is the exterior sign for the store. It will hang in three sections swag-style, just as real papel picados do. (Papel picado literally means 'punched' or 'perforated' paper. Originally a highly-refined art form from China, this traditional cut paper folk art has been embraced throughout Mexico.) To learn more about the history of the papel picado, here is a link to a website chock full of them; along with many other great items:
El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead/All Souls Day has its roots in the Aztec and Maya traditions of Mexico and is thousands of years old.
It has become more & more recognized and celebrated here in the greater American West in recent years. The Day of the Dead as it is celebrated in central and southern Mexico is an incredible amalgamation of native and Catholic beliefs, and honors departed members of the family. As the time of year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, it is believed that the departed actually come back, returning to visit their grave sites and the scenes of their lives.
One of the ways that Mexicans cope with loss is to view the concept of death in an almost playful manner. Markets are filled with candy skulls (complete with names) and statues and depictions of calacas (skeletons) engaged in everyday acts like playing music, celebrating weddings (and funerals!), riding skeleton horses, bikes, and countless other life delights.
Artists have participated in the long-standing tradition of creating calaveras (skulls) to celebrate this event - often satirizing the events, customs and personalities of the day. The most famous Mexican artist known for this is José Guadalupe Posada.
Here is a satirical image of myself - I call it "Sirena Me" (note long gray hair). I fashioned it after the famous image card of the Siren in Mexico's national game, ¡Lotería!. I play the guitar and sing (I jokingly refer to my voice as dizzying..) You can actually hear a few recordings from several years ago on my personal website, Victoria's Borderland. The turtle represents my mother (who loved turtles) and I am wearing morning glories, her favorite flower.
In the northern frontiers of Mexico and border regions, El Día de los Muertos is more muted but departed family members are honored just the same. Fall is when families of the departed clean grave sites, give them fresh paint, and decorate the graves with flowers--fresh, silk/plastic, and hand-made paper.
Of all the seasons of the year, Fall is my favorite. Here in the Sonoran Desert the temperatures begin to cool and there is a restful stillness in the air. Around the world, many cultures celebrate this time as the annual window when the veil between the spirit and physical world is the thinnest. In pre-Christian times, death was not a thing to be feared but a transition to be celebrated as another form of life. In this way, family members and ancestors were honored and kept close in the hearts of the living.
During this special fall window, many grand occurrences take place in nature that have helped people connect with those who have passed on. In North America, one of the most phenomenal is the mass migration of the Monarch butterfly. Every year, 60 million-one billion Monarchs make the journey from eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico. They arrive in the state of Michoacán every fall. The Purépecha Indians in the region have noticed the arrival of monarchs since pre-Hispanic times. In the native Purépecha language, the monarch butterfly is called the harvester butterfly, because monarchs appear when it's time to harvest the corn.
Monarchs and the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) also occurs when the monarchs appear. According to traditional belief, the monarchs are the souls of ancestors who are returning to Earth for their annual visit.
All Souls/All Saints/Day of the Dead occurs officially on November 2nd. In Mexico, however, it is a three-day celebration that begins on October 31st. More on this festive tradition next post.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico's patron saint and is loved and revered throughout the America's. Here, her tears turn into roses that rain down as a blessing on the deceased. (Roses are a key element in her legend, read more about her here.) Roses are also important to the Yoeme (Pascua Yaqui) cultural belief in the Flower World; their spiritual vision of heaven.
The presence of an owl portends death, according Mexican folk traditions. There is an old saying in Mexico: Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere ("When the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies"). The Aztecs and Maya, along with other Natives of Mesoamerica, considered the owl a symbol of death and destruction.
The saguaro cactus has finished its spring bloom and is ready for the saguaro harvest conducted by the Tohono O'odham Indians in late June. From the saguaro fruit they make saguaro wine, jams, and jellies and have a rain feast in honor of the coming monsoon.
The horned lizard at the bottom does not have any special meaning except that they are a beloved endangered desert critter.
While illegal border crossings are now fewer than deportations, Sonoran Arizona remains America's graveyard. Interestingly, this article from a local paper was also released today: Agents rescue 3 illegal immigrants, find body in desert . The tides of immigration shift with time, and many of Mexico's bread-winners have already fled to the U.S. Entire towns have emptied in recent years, and Mexico's birthrate has dropped significantly. Many who cross now come from other Latin American countries escaping horrific violence as well as poverty. Chances are also good that a Mexican crosser today is a deportee who has been separated from family in the States.
I continue to find ways where I can honor all those who gave up everything for a better life. It is my intent to show here that we can only hope they are being received into a better place than those they knew in their home countries or in our deserts.
Barrio Hollywood is one of Tucson's many distinctive Mexican-American neighborhoods, famous locally for its annual Fiesta Grande - a street fair along Grande Avenue, its main arterial street.
This painting attempts to integrate neighborhood icons with a splash of timeless ethereality in action. I also seek to honor the power of family in Tucson's barrios. This piece enlivened some of my own memories growing up with Latino culture in L.A. and I remain a fan of classic lowrider cars to this day.
Renown Tucson author, Patricia Preciado Martin, grew up here. Her many books about Southern Arizona's people, history and culture have inspired me for many years. Barrio Hollywood is also home to Tucson's cherished artist, David Tineo.
For more information on Barrio Hollywood and its place in Tucson's history, see the booklet, Looking Into the Westside - Untold Stories of the People, now published on line.
Angelita Ochoa (below), (holding baby in the 1941 family portrait included in the painting), saw her 97th birthday in 1995.
I created this painting styled as an ex-voto; a votive offering to a saint or divinity, given in fulfillment of a vow. (Click on photo to enlarge)
Adelita (la soldadera) stands tall, gazing forward, carrying a young child in a traditional indigenous sling. On her thigh rests a Carabina 30/30— (Winchester 30/30) decorated with a rose and two hummingbirds; both powerful Yoeme (Yaqui) symbols. She is dressed plainly, in a Tehuana style skirt. She shows signs of struggle but is poised and undeterred. She is the enduring Woman Warrior Spirit personified, the unsung strength of the world.
The girl child Adelita carries represents a new generation of life. She could be the child of Adelita, or a rescued child separated from her own natural mother. She sleeps peacefully.
In my community travels, I have found that literally none have heard of La Corua or its legend.
At the Tucson's Birthplace Breakfast, I ran into an old acquaintance, Jesús Garcia; Sonoran native and naturalist at the Sonoran Desert Museum. We discussed the future of the Mission Garden and I gave him my card. He knows of La Corua well, and told me that it indeed is a real snake - not just a mythical animal as I understood it to be. I was thrilled and told him how much keeping Sonoran folk heritage alive means to me.
So, here is the biology I uncovered about my business' namesake:
The boa constrictor (Boa constrictor) is found from South America to central Sonora. In Sonora, the Mexican boa constrictor or corúa (B. c. imperator) can be a rich dark reddish color in tropical deciduous forest or a paler grayish color in coastal thornscrub. Corúa (also coruba) is a pre-Columbian name. They are often found in canyons and are thought to be guardians of the aguajes (water holes). Unlike other serpents, killing them is thought to be bad luck (the water will dry up).
A journal of inspirations, interpretations and lasting impressions.