At long last Day of the Dead altar is ready to greet the jovial spirits of the dearly departed tonight. The ‘Dia de los Muertos’ as it is better known in Mexico is a nearly 3,000-year-old ritual to honor the spirits that visit us right after Halloween, spirits of deceased family and friends.
I always make sure to include offerings and mementos of my Papa and Abuela who are the closest relatives of mine that have passed. And decorate the altar with the mass cards of friends that have left this earth far too early. And of course there is always an homage to Frida Kahlo who honored death like no other.
Each section of the Gonzales–Walgreen Altar honors certain family members including all of our pets. Here my Abuela Angelita is remembered with the birds she loved, rosary she always carried and of course her jarrito (little jar) for atole.
Finding fresh Mexican marigolds in November in Chicago is a herculean task. So I have come to depend on colorful paper flowers to decorate the altar. And this is the time of year I also bring out my collection of Oaxacan alebrijes. The intricately decorated folk art sculptures honor the many animals that have been part of my family’s life, in hopes their souls will come back to visit – even if it’s only for one night.
The Day of the Dead celebration would not be complete without food. The altar contains the favorite food and drinks of the departed so their spirit can find peace and comfort with the things they loved most. I always have a wonderful selection of chilis – Chile de arbol, pasilla, guajillo – all ingredients that will be present in tonight’s dinner.
The center of our family altar is a detailed replica of the Mexican house my grandparents house in Los Altos de Jalisco –
Estelle Gonzales Walgreen
Estelle Gonzales Walgreen is a first generation Mexican-American and entrepreneur of convenience enjoying the next phase of her quixotic life-journey fulfilling a dream to write in order to make people laugh sideways and avoid institutionalization. Most recently Estelle co-founded HS-News serving as its Editor-in-Chief since no one else applied. She cries when mistaken for Jessica Alba her reptilian manicurist and smiles when engaging in taco politics.
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