Don’t say that about Dia de los Muertos … though Mexican gays make it fab


ALTARED STATES | An ofrenda honors the life of a dead parent as part of Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween ghouls and goblins, but a day of remembrance for those friends and relatives that have traveled on.

Day of the Dead coincides with the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day on Nov. 1, a day to remember children and infants, and All Souls Day on Nov. 2, set aside to commemorate adults. Tradition calls for the building of altars (ofrendas) in homes and graveside, consisting of images of the deceased, flower of the dead called cempasúchil (gold marigolds), sugar skulls, candles and the deceased’s favorite food and drink. Cemeteries are visited and decorated in honor of the deceased, following a practice that dates back at least 3,000 years to pre-Hispanic America and a ritual the Aztecs initiated.

Postcard-art-(B&W)-copyBut like everything, traditions change. Ex-Dallasite Michael Parker Stainback, now living in Mexico City, says, “I’d say Halloween isn’t really celebrated [here], but has sort of leaked into Day of the Dead, so there are costume parties and a ton of decorations — which of course fags take to naturally.”

Day of the Dead festivities begin on Oct. 31, when trick-or-treating Mexican children not only ask for candy but also pesos; adults attend costume parties as well. But in Mexico, with the blending of the two cultures, the festivities, especially within the LGBT community, continue until Nov. 2. In Mexico, there is always a party.

Community altars, art and performances take place around the city as well. Agustin Villalpando, editor of Mexico City’s LGBT Internet ‘zine Enkidu, points out that trans sex workers always make a street altar to remember their friends killed for being prostitutes on a street three blocks from Alameda Park, Mexico City’s main central park, that is exclusive for trans prostitutes.

That gives a much more serious twist on the idea of trick or treat.

— Jesus Chairez

Day of the Dead exhibits in Dallas can be enjoyed at the 25th Annual Dia de los Muertos Exhibition at the Bath House Culture Center through Nov. 12. The Latino Culture Center hosts a daylong celebration Saturday that embraces recycling. The exhibit continues through Nov. 3. Also on Saturday, the Bishop Arts Foundation presents its inaugural festival.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.