Monthly Archives: October 2008

Day of the Dead – a little early

For the first time, Mex and I went to an event celebrating Day of the Dead. Ironically, it was a celebration held at the Minnesota History Center which I personally found a little odd.

There were a lot of activities meant to entertain kids and then events which Mex personally doesn’t connect to the celebration like Aztec dancers (though the costumes are amazing and it’s hard not to enjoy the dances). However, the ofrendas were very similar to the ones in Mexico. In Mexican households and in the cemetaries each family creates an altar with all sorts of things that remind them of the deceased loved ones. Traditional items left at the ofrendas vary by state but there are basic similarities throughout Mexico. One such item is the pan de muerto, bread decorated with bone shapes, which can be found everywhere. Also, the bright orange cempasuchil flowers, similar to marigolds, are the “flowers of death” and are used all over the country. Celebrations start on what we Americans celebrate as Halloween with Mexican families setting up their altars and preparing for the deceased spirits to visit. The spirits of the children or angelitos (little angels) are supposed to revisit their families on earth in the early hours of Nov 1st.
Deceased adult spirits come to visit their families in the early morning hours of Nov 2nd. Usually the favorite foods of the dead person are laid out for their spirit to taste. Tamales, atole (a thick cornmeal drink), beans, rice, chocolate, a glass of tequila, etc, are some examples. Candles are lit and incense is burned. The families spend the evening and days remembering their passed loved ones.

Sugar and candy skulls are also sold in mass along with little candy coffins. In Patzcuaro, where Mexico’s most famous celebration is held, they sell skeletal figurines all year long. We saw them in March when we were there.
These traditions, although seemingly Christian in nature, actually date back to pre-Hispanic rituals dedicated to Mictlantecuhtli, the Mexica (Aztec) lord of the underworld, and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec war deity to whom many people were sacrificed. In an attempt to convert the natives of Mexico, Spanish priests moved the date to coincide with All Soul’s Day. I guess the Aztec dancing does come in to play….
Though Mex’s family has been honoring his mother on Day of the Dead for 16 years, this will be the first year for his sister Hilaria who died of cancer last December. They also honor all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Mex also has a sister who died at age 7 (who was older than him) and a brother who I believe was still-born (he isn’t counted on his mother’s line of births that’s on Mex’s birth certificate though) but the details are fuzzy on that since it was way before Mex’s time and his family doesn’t really discuss things like that. I hope next year we can go to Mexico during this time because I know Mex would like to be part of the memorial/celebration after being gone for so many years. I personally, think this is a wonderful idea and told Mex I hope we would do this tradition in our house when we have children or that we should even do it now. How nice to spend at least one day a year remembering those you love who are no longer with you. Something I bet not a lot of us take time to do after the initial grieving period is over.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Day of the Dead celebrations in the Twin Cities I will let you know about a few things I know that are going on. All of the events are FREE>
Friday the 31st – Dia de los Angelitos Traditional Aztec Danza at the Neighborhood House, 179 Robie St E, St. Paul. Starts at 7pm and is followed by music and food.
Saturday the 1st – 1-3 pm Sugar Skull making and information about history of Day of the Dead at the gym in the Neighborhood House (address above).
6pm – Gathering at La Placita, 175 Cesar Chavez St, St. Paul. A procession through the neighborhood starts at 6:30 ending at the Neighborhood house (address above) with music, food and a bonfire.
Sunday the 2nd, at Global Market in Minneapolis there is free Mexican food from 2-5 and I’m guessing some ofrendas will be there on display. I’m sure there must be events held at Mercado Central on Lake & Bloomington as well but I haven’t seen any information on those.

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Filed under Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Holidays and Celebrations

Different status, same reaction

Tired and a little freaked out by all the news coverage of America’s “crashing economy” and the “next depression” and how my Roth IRA, although fairly minimal, is probably plummeting lower and lower as I type this, Mex and I flipped, first to BBC News and then to Univision so we could find out a little bit about what is going on in the rest of the world. Immediately on Univision I saw the common picture of Police with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement?) on their back conducting raids. What I found surprising is my stomach clenched in the same way it has for almost 7 years. From the time I got to know Mex (Oct 2001) first as a friend, then falling in love (not sure exactly when that part happened), I have had a knot in my stomach at the mere mention of Immigration Raids.

There was a point in our relationship where we both had to make a conscious decision to move forward, knowing the difficulties that would be ahead due to his status (although we didn’t really understand them until a year before our marriage when we met with an attorney). I knew before our first date his situation but I refused to let that bother me since he was a nice guy, always polite and respectful with a big smile. My friend Conchie confirmed that he was a good guy, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t have lots of girls…. he broke from my stereo type of a Mexican man (which, unfortunately, was always fairly negative).

I honestly cannot say enough good things about the type of person Mex is… He is so generous with his time, loving to volunteer at Ronald McDonald house or with church. He always makes me feel loved and beautiful and never criticizes me (except the occasional complaints about my nasty habit of leaving dirty Kleenex around). He strives to succeed and worked hard at his English classes, even before he met me. He worries about my family as if they are his own. He feels a responsibility to take care of his dad and my parents as well as they age. He is honest, loving, a great cook… A hard worker, sometimes having 3 jobs and working over 100 hours a week. yes, he’s also incredibly stubborn, getting a little sassy, and a picky eater but nobody is perfect.

I suppose you are wondering what my point is with this rambling about Mex’s good qualities. Every time in the past 7 years that I have heard of an Immigration raid I panic. My stomach would clench so tight I felt nauseous and my mind would race trying to figure out where Mex was if I wasn’t with him at the time. I would cry as the news caster would interview the spouse and children of those arrested. I would get angry by the unfairness of it all. Usually people were arrested at work, trying to make money for their families, having no previous criminal history. To be fair, I completely understand the argument that “they came here illegally so they are all criminals.” I do see the point. It is true in the literal sense I suppose. However, as a spouse who knows what an incredible person her husband is, how he helps others, pays taxes, learned English… I just don’t see how we can put any group of people in a box and have a blanket way of dealing with them.

It frustrated and angered me that I knew, even though Mex’s spouse was a US citizen, even though he is an honest guy, etc., if he was ever caught in the middle of a raid it wouldn’t matter… They wouldn’t take that into consideration. They would rip him out of my life, maybe without even allowing him to call me. That fear was constant in our lives. It was especially terrible during the beginning of our relationship when I respected Mex’s wishes and didn’t divulge his status to anyone (or almost anyone). I had no one to share my fears with. The nights I laid awake after the raids at Swift and in southern MN in sheer panic, I had no one to call. Acid burned in the back of my throat as I listened to anti-immigrant people call in to radio shows and make ignorant comments about how “all” illegals abuse welfare, don’t know English, don’t pay taxes. These are the same people who would assume they knew a person’s story just by the color of their skin. That assume all Latinos are Mexican and all Mexicans are illegal.

 Mex never wanted me to tell anyone about his status because he didn’t want to be judged by it, and I knew he was right. It made my heart hurt to think people could hate Mex without even getting to know him at all… Without even caring about the type of person he is… Those people think the only thing that matters is how he got to the US. I just will never be able to agree to that. Never. I believe there is such a thing as forgiveness, and if you can show that, even though you may not have got into the US the correct way, you have done nothing but good things since you’ve been here, you deserve some. Thankfully, the government did grant forgiveness to Mex on April 17th, 2008. I hope some of those ultra-radical anti-immigrant activists can open their minds to the idea of forgiveness and close their minds to some of the hatred that they seem to emit from their pores.

Even though I know Mex’s status is now pretty iron clad (unless he commits a felony worthy of having his green card stripped) I still feel panic when I see the ICE people on TV kicking in doors and holding guns. I still feel violated in a way. Unsafe. Like my family is in danger. I do still know many people who are in danger from those raids and maybe that is why my gut tightens. I don’t know exactly. I do know that I hugged Mex tightly last night, long after he fell asleep and thanked everyone I could think of who supported us in our trip this spring for making his forgiveness possible. Everyone who wrote letters, read our blog, sent encouraging emails, prayed, thought good thoughts, towed our PT…. All of you are blessings in our lives and I think every day how you all helped Mex and I take away some of our daily fear of forceful separation. You all showed us how much we are loved and encouraged from our family’s, friends, co-workers of family =), Trinity members…. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the pit of my stomach.

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Filed under Immigration, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card, Undocumented Worker