Self-Help Graphics celebrates death

ADMIRING THE DEAD—A curious onlooker snaps a photo of a "calaca," a skeleton, in a mariachi dress, during Self-Help Graphics & Arts anuual Dia de los Muertos celebration. CN/Maria Gonzales

By Maria Gonzales

Self-Help Graphics & Art’s 38th Annual Celebration of Dia De Los Muertos brought the community together with a wide spectrum of cultural arts and entertainment. The event commemorated the annual celebrations that fuse Christians and other spiritual beliefs of the afterlife.

The theme of the night was “Revival,” in celebration of SHG’s new home located in the heart of Boyle Heights. The evening started with a traditional procession from Mariachi Plaza to the SHG building a few blocks away.

Other Boyle Heights organizations such as CASA 0101, Corazon del Pueblo and Proyecto Pastoral joined SHG in carrying the copal ritual and burning incense. A familiar and popular aspect of Dia de Los Muertos is the face paint that resembles the skeletal dead with traditional colors black, white and red.

The room designated for the altars was full of traditional colors that are used for dia de los muertos. An altar serves as a way for an individual or group to honor their dead loved ones.

Monica Olmos is an East Los Angeles College student who has been creating an altar with SHG for three years now.  She named her altar “Viva el Amor Eterno,” which translates to long live eternal love, in memory of her boyfriend and relatives.

Olmos’ altar consisted of items that were symbolic of the people remembered.  Symbols like photos, candles, marigolds and incense decorated the altar. “I am not an artist, but I like to create from my heart,” said Olmos when she described her altar.

Olmos was one of the first persons that contributed independently to create her own altar alongside the community altar from SHG. The community altar was decorated with paper marigolds, LED lights and vintage photos.

An altar was created for civil rights activist Shifra Goldman who died September.  Goldman is considered by some to be the godmother of the Chicano art movement. Artist Patssi Valdez who grew up in East Los Angeles curated a gallery that had paintings and sculptures, among other visual arts.  She felt honored being the curator this year. “There was a call out to all local artists and the theme Revival was chosen, in celebration of Self-Help Graphics’s new home,” said Valerie De La Garza, SHG’s chairwoman.

The art showcased the Latino community through an aesthetic form, like the mixed media on canvas done by artist Raul Gonzalez named “Amor Eterno” (eternal love).  Gonzalez shows a couple holding a baby resembling the dead. Also, decorating the room were quilts that were made by the East L.A. Stitchers de la Vida, a stitching organization that was co-founded 15-years ago by Supervisor Gloria Molina to have a space where women can learn quilt-making and share their personal stories. “I enjoy quilting.  It’s a passion of mine,” said Molina.

TELAS meets every first Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1p.m at SGH. Evelyn Martinez-Zapata won a  second place ribbon at the Orange County Fair for her quilt “La Locura de Las Latinas,” which translates to the craziness of the Latinas. It’s embellished with contemporary icons of Latino culture like Virgin Guadalupe, and Frida Kahlo.

Music played all night, from traditional mariachi music to South Gate political ska band La Resistencia to ELAC’s garage punk group Hello My Name Is Red. There was something for everyone to enjoy. Local artisans also displayed their colorful work like earrings, necklaces and clothing.

The Revival art exhibition will be open from Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment only, until Nov. 30.

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