Sunday, November 02, 2014

Los Muertos En Este Dia: Testimonios, or Little Stories (some true, some not)

by Amelia M.L. Montes

“Sometimes when I’m working late into the night, they gather all around me.  They sit and watch me. Sometimes it’s my tia Chala, sometimes Pepe, others I don’t even know.  Some are a combination of two spirits.” 

“When my aunt died, all the lights of the house went out. I had to talk to her, to calm her down so all the lights would go back on.  It took a few minutes.” 

“It’s true what they say about us Chicanos—that we know the other side, and I’m not talking about the physical border which we know too well.  We know the other side because we are not afraid.” 

“She was so loud despues que se murio.  Everyone had a dream about her, or they felt her. But it wasn’t anything scary.  I think of it this way:  She was so excited to be in this other dimension, she was determined to share at least a wisp of it with us.”

“We eat the bread, the pan de muertos.  I always save some of mine and break it into little pieces.  I put some on the altar, but then I put some on the table by the bed, just in case.  I drink my atole, and leave the bread, para que tengan, si quieren.” 

“Once, a Catholic nun told me: ‘we know more of what death, God. or heaven is not, than what death, God, or heaven is.’  Imaginate! —a Catholic nun said that.”

“The tall lady with the red pencil skirt and high heels pointed at me.  She wanted me to make a ‘Day of the Dead Altar’ for her and her group because my last name sounded Hispanic to her.  N’ombre.  I’m no His-panic, and making an altar, pues, I don't do that for gente ajena--something so personal.  It's not Halloween trick or treat.” 

“We bring the table mi papa built 50 years ago to the front room, and we cover it with el mantel that mama loved—and we go from there.  The kids bring whatever they want:  their drawings, figs from the tree in the backyard, the bread, flowers too, little Olivia likes putting dirt en un frasco for them.  Last year we made incense, and Gustavo brought the candles.  He also made new frames for the pictures. It always looks warm and inviting.  They all come, and we eat.” 

“We never painted calavera faces until I got together con Cecilia.  She said her familia always did it.  Mine never did.  Now we take turns painting each other’s caras every year. I'd like to do it more often.  I like taking the time to really look, I mean really look at her when I paint her face, the way we see on that day . . . 

“Three generations have been born and died in this house.  So we remember them today.  Their umbilical cords are buried over there near the maple tree and, pues, since we still haven’t scattered the ashes—we just put them on the altar.  We talk, we eat, we drink, we dance.  It's a good time.  Then, we put everything away.  The ashes go back in the closet.  I guess we just want to keep them with us.  I doubt we’ll scatter them any time soon.” 

You know what they say:  “Al vivo todo le falta, y al muerto todo le sobra.” 

José Guadalupe Posada

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