Posts in History & Traditions
History | Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that’s celebrated Oct 31st- Nov 2nd. I’ve been seeing the popularization of this holiday among main stream culture. With that, I’ve been feeling a little annoyed (for lack of a better word) because I feel that there’s really no understanding behind it, it just looks pretty, and if it looks pretty, it will sell. And what I don’t want to see happen, is that we lose the roots and culture of this special holiday.

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It’s great to have interest in Mexican culture, I love talking about this stuff with other people, so I’d like to help you understand a little more about how this holiday is routed in honor and culture — holding a deep meaning to those who celebrate it.

Origins

The Day of the Dead dates back to pre-Columbian cultures. That’s a LONG time ago; like before the Europeans came to Mesoamerica to colonize it. It’s always been a time to celebrate the death of ancestors and has evolved over time.

The celebrations evolved into the modern day festivities but were originally the entire 9th month of the Aztec calendar (August), and were dedicated to La Calavera Catrina or “Lady of the Dead”.

While it used to be celebrated in the summer it’s become associated with “All Saints Day, or All Souls Day”. It has evolved into a day to honor infants and children who have passed on Nov 1st, and a day to honor adults who have passed on Nov 2nd.

I’ve learned that it wasn’t until the 20th century that it was even celebrated in the northern parts of Mexico. Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country, so they celebrated “All Saints Day” like other Christians around the world. In the 1960s Mexico made Day of the Dead a national holiday, inviting the northern part of Mexico to also celebrate this tradition.

La Calavera

La Calavara Catrina is a lady depicted as a skeleton wearing only a large European style hat. It’s thought to have depicted the upper class, but it was said that "Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded of that." (David de la Torre)

Mexican interpretation of death is unique from other cultures in that it uses offerings, songs, respect and humor. While other cultures interpret La Catrina differently, in Mexico, it’s thought that she represents the European culture being pressed upon Mesoamerica, but remind us that the bones within are still native.

tradition

The sugar skull is an image associated with day of the dead. People even get their face painted with intricate and beautiful designs. The calavera, is an artistic representation of a skull of a person who is deceased, and can often be made to depict certain characteristics of that person making them recognizable in skeleton form.

This is a beautiful tradition, but doing this as a Halloween costume or out of context can be seen as cultural appropriation.

Often the calaveras are placed on an alter reserved for family who has died. An alter or ofrenda is made in the home or on a grave site as a remembrance and an honor to the loved ones. They can include the person’s favorite foods, music, trinkets, along with candles, calaveras, marigold flowers, colorful decorations, and photos.

Marigolds—often used as decoration—are said to represent the fragility of life. They also serve as a guidance to the spirits as they come back to this world to feel the love of their family, and take that love back with them.

During this time, family time is very important. Stories are shared, and food is passed as everyone remembers those who are gone. It’s a celebration of life; of life passed, and of the lives that are still living. Death is nothing we should be afraid of, but rather as a reminder of the importance of our life now.

I understand wanting to be a part of a celebration like this, especially one that is full of joy, food and drinks. In other cultures, death is typically associated with sadness and grief. While there is definitely sadness to the death of loved ones, (I can’t even think about losing someone close to me without having anxiety) the Mexican culture has found a way to continue honoring that person’s life beyond the grave. Their memory stays alive. There’s joy, happiness, bright colors, and celebration. Rather than simply putting some sugar skulls on socks or t-shirts to wear them on the day, think about how it can affect your own life. Think about how you can truly understand someone else’s traditions, see the good in them, and respect them without trying to gain anything for yourself.

This is a nice video about Dia de los Muertos if you want to hear more.


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History | Hispanic Heritage Month
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We are at the end of Hispanic Heritage month. It started on Sept 15th and ended yesterday, October 15th. This observation started as just a week of acknowledgement in 1968 by Lyndon Johnson. In 1988 it was expanded to 30 days by Ronald Reagan. During this month we’re paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have influenced and enriched our nation and society.

How awesome is that!?

And to think, still at 30 years later, we’ve experienced such a setback from feeling accepted in this country, even if we are citizens. The celebration or acknowledgement of Hispanic/Latino history is huge, because it’s a way for people who aren’t Hispanic to get a glimpse of the historical impact that Latin American countries have had on the US. It’s so easy to stay comfortably in your own little towns hanging out with the same groups of people that are similar to you, while being ignorant of the beauty of other countries and cultures, especially the ones that border your own and have made a direct impact on your own personal freedoms.

Often I see people who might enjoy the culture and foods of different countries turn around and spew hatred toward the same culture that brought the foods they love to this country.

While having specific months to honor different groups of people, (Hispanic Heritage month in Sept/Oct, Black History month in February, Asian History month in May, and American Indian month in November) is a great thing where we can learn about different histories and cultures, I think of when Americans as a whole will show more appreciation, compassion and understanding for each other.

It starts somewhere. It starts with you, and me; teaching our kids how to love differences, and to celebrate different cultures.



History | Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexican Independence day. It is however, a day that Mexico commemorates winning the battle against the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 which happened 50 years after Mexico already won its independence (Sept 16, 1810).

So why did they have to fight this battle?

Mexico had debt that it couldn't pay due to previous wars, and the President, Benito Juarez, asked for a two year suspension to help recuperate. The French saw this as an opportunity and decided to invade Mexico to make it a French territory. There was a small army waiting for them when they arrived at the town of Puebla. Even though the French army outnumbered the Mexican army, the French army was defeated before they were able to get to Mexico City. Yay!

So why is it celebrated so much in the US?

This win was a symbol against French imperialism. The US helped Mexico push out the French for good. Around the same time of the Battle of Puebla, the Mexican Americans in the US used the victory as inspiration in their struggle with the Union during the Civil war. It's thought that if the French would have won in Puebla & the Mexico City, they would have aided the side of the Confederacy in the US.

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in the town of Puebla with a festival, parade, and music celebrations. In the US you'll also see celebrations. I think this is a great time to educate and teach others about Mexican and American history. It's important to know the significance of any holiday that you choose to celebrate. Rather than just jump at the chance to enjoy Mexican food, and have bottomless margaritas, take some time to learn not only about another culture, but also US history. Doing this will help with empathy, understanding, and humanity as a whole. Our kids will have a better future that way.


TWO EVENTS COMING UP THIS WEEK.

I've partnered with XO Marshmallow this week. I have a new collection hanging in their new cafe, and I'm going to be there hanging out TWICE this week and talking about the history of Cinco de Mayo. So come with any questions or with just your sweet tooth. 

Get your free tickets!

 
Traditions | Papel Picado

If you've seen the movie Coco you've seen the decoration known as "Papel Picado" or "pecked paper". These paper banners are most commonly displayed for holidays or religious occasions like Easter, Christmas, Day of the Dead, quinceñeras, baptisms, weddings. It was breathtaking to see the whole Day of the Dead land in the movie Coco to be so vibrantly decorated with papel picado. It's not usual that I see something like that in the US.

Papel picado came about during the 19th century. It was typically made by hand using a chisel. First, an intricate design is drawn on paper and covered with plastic to protect the original drawing. To make several copies at once they stack many thin tissue paper sheets together and chisel the design out. The stack is then picked apart and hung on a string with other papers that have different designs. This is similar to the Chinese paper cutting, but rather than being cut with scissors, in Mexico they use chisel.

The art of Papel Picado is officially recognized by the ministry of Tourism and culture in Mexico. San Salvador Huixcolotla in Puebla is known as the center of papel picado, but in the 1930s the art spread to other parts in Mexico. It was in the 1960s that papel picado made it's way to the United States and Europe. Now you'll see this decoration made out of different materials like plastic of thicker paper so that it can withstand the outdoors, or be a more permanent and sturdy decoration. 


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I have a new print called Papel Picado that I'll offer this summer in a new collection. Here's a sneak peek of it. I'll be announcing a launch date soon, but until then, be thinking and planning where in your home this print would be perfect to hang.

If you're not on my e-mail list yet, sign up so you can be one of the first to know when the new collection launches. I'll also share when new events are happening, new blog posts are shared, and give exclusive promotions. So go ahead, enter your email. :-)

History | The Mexican Flag

It's so interesting to me to be diving into Mexican culture and history as research for my trips to Mexico to produce more art. I really want to help enlighten and inform others about my Mexican roots.

I didn't really pay attention in history class when I was younger, but now I can't get enough. And let's be honest, how much of American history do you remember from your school days? I'm the first to admit I didn't retain much. 

Mexico's Flag Day is approaching on Feb 24th, so I thought it would be a good idea to look into the flag's history and share with you. 

The first national flag of Mexico was created in 1821 following its independence from Spain. While there are a few other flags that were used during the War of Independence from Spain, the first official use of a flag with the green, white and red colors was used after they won the war.

Green: The first in the three stripes signifies the Independence Movement and hope.

White: The middle stripe is to acknowledge the purity of the Catholic Faith and Mexico's strong devotion to it.

Red: The vertical bar to the right is a representation of the blood that was shed for Mexico by the revolutionaries for independence.  

The coat of arms: In the center of the white stripe is an eagle with a snake in its mouth. This is to recognize the Aztec heritage of Mexico. Aztec legend states that the gods advised the people to build a city on the spot in which they saw an eagle perched on a prickly pear tree eating a serpent. This spot is now known as Mexico City today.


Here are some variations that the Mexican flag has gone through before the current design that we know today was established.

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The first National Flag is from The First Mexican Empire from 1821 - 1823. The crown on the eagle's head signifies the empire under Agustin de Iturbide.

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The second National Flag was used during the establishment of the Mexican Republic from 1823-1863, 1867-1968. You can see the crown was removed and the serpent, oak and laurel branches were added.

 
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The third National Flag was from the Second Mexican Empire from 1863-1867. The eagles in the corners were added to look like the French Imperial arms but with a "Mexican flavor" 

There have been many variations during the evolution of the Mexican flag, but these are the main ones. The current flag is the one pictured at the top. All of this is so interesting to me and if you want, you can find out more at these sites:

Historical Flags of Mexico

Symbolism of the Mexican Flag

Wikipeida: Flag of Mexico

Thanks for following along, feel free to leave a comment about something that was interesting to you. Or if you end up doing research on your own culture's flag, I'd love to learn something new so leave a comment below. 


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