I painted this portrait in honor of my Grandmother.

Tomorrow begins the Mexican celebration called Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this celebration. First, Día de los Muertos as nothing to do with Halloween. Another thing is that it is as much of a celebration of life as it is a remembrance of the dead.

I have never been one to actively participate in this time of celebrating and commemoration of deceased ancestors.  For one thing the calaveras make me extremely uncomfortable.  But I’ve been thinking more about this special time in the Mexican culture these past few days and something has occurred to me.  Here are my thoughts.

This celebration began with the original (native) people in what we now call Mexico.  I have begun to realize that as a descendant of those remarkable people, I can acknowledge the parts of the celebration that mean something to me and leave the rest out.  I do not have to be “all in” to remember, celebrate and appreciate my ancestors.   I do not have to paint a calavera on my face or build an ofrenda.  It is okay for me to celebrate, honor and remember my ancestors in other ways.  I can tell my children and grandchildren about them, paint their portraits, and remembering and pass on their stories.

One of those stories involve an answered prayer that my Grandmother prayed.  Here’s some background; when the Spanish colonist and Catholics took over Mexico from the indigenous people living there, they brought with them the November 1st celebration they called “All Saints Day”.  This is an especially important day for many Catholics. One of the stories I was told by my father involves that day and shows great honor to my Grandmother, Marina Ledezma Enriquez.  It also shows how important family was to her.  The family story goes like this; after my grandmother married my grandfather, Pedro Galindo Gonzalez in 1913 she lost 3 babies.  After these 3 tragic losses, my Grandmother prayed. In her prayer, she promised that if her next baby lived, she would name that baby after the Saint that was recognized on that day.  My Uncle Santos (Santos means Saints in Spanish) was born on November 1, 1919.  November 1st is All Saints Day in the Catholic tradition.  My Uncle lived until 1991.  Her prayer was answered. 

I love this story and will share it with my children and grandchildren and that will keep my grandmother’s memory alive.  Whose memory are you keeping alive through pictures and stories?  Have a wonderful Día de los Muertos and All Saints Day!

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