Dia de los Muertos festival brings about activism

AZTEC PRIDE— An Aztec Dance Group performs at the East Los Angeles College Dia De Los Muertos Festival Thursday in the front of campus to celebrate their culture and traditions. CN/Giselle Palomera

By Giselle Palomera

The Dia de los Muertos Festival at East Los Angeles College featured Aztlan Underground and Cuicani bands that sang about colonization, globalization and self-awareness.

Aztlan Underground originated from ELAC and returned to spread the messages they feel strongly about.

According to the band, they believe in self-awareness, decolonizing the environment and giving a voice to the voiceless on topics like crossing borders and native culture.

“We give a voice to the voiceless and we talk about how we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” Ignacio Lopez, drummer of the band said.

Guitarist Ethan Miranda known as “Thunderbird,” had the number five painted on his forehead in red.

According to Miranda, the number five represented $5 given to military for turning in a Native American’s head during the California Genocide.

The California Genocide took place during a period of time where Native Americans’ heads were worth a bail amount.

According to nativeamericannetroots.net during the California Genocide, “The government paid about $1.1 Million in 1852 to militias to hunt down and kill indians.”

In 1857, the California legislature allocated another $410,000 for the same purposes. In 1856, the state of California paid 25 cents for each indian scalp. In 1860, the bounty was increased to $5.”

The rest of Miranda’s face was painted black with white tears, which he says symbolizes the tears and pain his people have suffered.

Miranda said that he is a social justice activist and is dedicated to helping people realize that they have to be unified and that they have to protect the earth.

Aztlan Underground  has a hip-hop and rock influence.

The band also uses various Native American instruments like drums, flutes and rattles that are commonly used to celebrate their beliefs and culture.

Frank, who didn’t provide his last name, first joined the band around 26 years ago, but left about 10 years ago.

“I came back because everything is still relevant today like policemen killing the innocent, oppression and racism,” Frank said.

Lopez, the drummer otherwise known as “Caxo,” said that he joined the band because he wanted to make people positive and self-aware with its messages.

“We give a voice to the voiceless and we talk about how we didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us,” said Lopez.

Cuicani is another L.A. born band whose main focus is to spread the message about the injustice that continues to happen.

Cuicani, which means singer in Nahuatl, is a Los Angeles band influenced by Afro-Caribbean and soul music.

The band’s songs are centered around voicing injustices like police brutality, environmental justice and immigration rights.

“In addition to the performance aspect of the group, Cuicani is also deeply committed to being agents of social change,” Cuicani said in a story on the band’s website.

The Dia de los Muertos festival centered around the band’s live performance and was brought to life with music.

The festival was more than just a mix of vendors and food.

Adjunct professor Angelita Rovero,  who teaches Chicano Studies, has organized this festival for the sixth year with the help of the Associated Student Union, who funds the festival.

“I grew up in East L.A. and this is my home. I organized this event to bring this festival to ELAC and give students a sense of community. It’s all for the students to socialize. I love the holiday, but it’s for them. It’s for you,” said Rovero.

Rovero believes that the Dia de los Muertos holiday is the fastest growing Mexican holiday in California. She wants to continue to keep that part of her own culture alive and strong.

“I hope that the ELAC family knows that i will continue to do this event because, when students learn about their culture, it builds confidence,” Rovero said.

The festival also featured a variety of vendors and clubs.

Vendors sold handmade products that related to the beliefs and traditions of Dia de los Muertos. Some of the products sold were decorated sugar skulls, serapes, jewelry and other supplies to build altars for their deceased loved ones.

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