Chicano/as honored at Dia de los Muertos exhibit

BLESSINGS—Emily the Copalera blesses the altar of Annette “Cha Cha” Charles, who was known for her role as Charlene in the 1978 film “Grease.” CN/Dorany Pineda
ANCESTRAL DANCE—Emily and Joaquin, members for the Ajolote Circle of Aztec Dances, begin the Aztec Dance ceremony on Saturday in front of VPAM. CN/Dorany Pineda
SELENA—An altar dedicated to Selena, known as the Queen of Tejano music, is decorated with the things she enjoyed most during her short life. CN/Dorany Pineda
SHRINE—The altar of Mexican-American guitarist, singer and farm labor activist Lalo Guerrero is adorned with a guitar, vinyls and accolades he was honored with while he lived. CN/Dorany Pineda















By Julio Sanchez

The opening reception of the 14th annual Dia De Los Muertos Altar Exhibit brought the community together to celebrate the lives of legendary Chicanos and Chicanas in Arts.

The altars and ofrendas (offerings to the deceased) in the exhibit were produced by students as part of a Chicano studies class.

Exhibit and event coordinator, and professor at the Chicana/o studies department, Angelita Rovero, created the altars along with her students.

“To create (the altars) and actually build altogether, took about seven to eight weeks from the first day of school until yesterday,” said Rovero, “but (because)  it’s a Saturday class, we only had like three hours a week.”

The exhibit had altars honoring the lives of nine famous Chicanas and Chicanos that have made an impact in the field of arts and in the community.

Each altar had photos and information on the life of the deceased, as well as items that have significant meaning to each of the remembered individuals.

The honored individuals in the exhibit are Annette Cardona, Anthony Quinn, Carlos Almaraz, Gilbert Lujan, Jose Montoya, Lalo Guerrero, Lupe Ontiveros, Ritchie Valens and Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.

Student Jovanna Sanchez was involved in creating the altar for Anthony Quinn.

“Dia De Los Muertos was a normal tradition in my home,” said Sanchez. “I never thought that it would be something that I get to celebrate in school,  let alone educate others while honoring great Chicanas and Chicanos of the art world. It’s too good.” 

Not only did the event bring people from the community out to the exhibit, but also family members and friends of the deceased.

Ryan Quinn, son of Anthony Quinn, the first Mexican actor to win an Oscar in 1957, was at the exhibit.

He expressed how appreciative he was to see the efforts and dedication it took to making an altar in tribute to his father.

“Sometimes people try to honor people and it’s not always well done, but this (exhibit) is well done,” said Quinn. “The dolls of the characters that he portrayed in movies are really special because they’re a representation of him. I really love that and all the photographs  you can see, with just the expression of his face, it speaks about the way that he lived and the way that he loved.”

Ryan Quinn was not the only son of an honored father at the event. Naiche Lujan, son of Gilbert Lujan a famous Chicano painter, sculptor and muralist, also made an appearance at the reception.

“He [Gilbert Lujan] was such a car guy,” Lujan said. “He would sketch cars all day, so to have a car magazine in his altar is perfect. It’s such a beautiful labor of love to create an altar for somebody.”   

Annette Cardona, also known as “Cha Cha” from the film “Grease” and “The best dancer at St. Bernadette’s” also had one of her family members attend the event.

Annette Cardona’s sister, Benita Oekawa, was very grateful and glad to see people come together to celebrate the work and life of each talented individual being remembered.

“This brings the community together to take pride in our culture and our identity,” said Oekawa. “It also honors the family and helps us process the loss.”

The exhibit will continue to run until Dec. 2 at the Vincent Price Art Museum at ELAC. 

The event is free and open to the public and is held on the third floor of East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum.

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