Friday, October 19, 2012

Días de los muertos, Altadena style

Parade and jamaica are pretty much done.  Only have to deal with some details that are a part of the records and reimbursements that are always found at the tail end of any big project.  Last two weeks were spent trying to do that, trying to rest a bit, do a bit of long needed housekeeping, and getting ready for the next things on the Latino Heritage list.

An ofrenda at Webster's Fine Stationers was at the top of the list.  Thanks to a conversation with Lori Webster of WFS we have an ofrenda, a Days of the Dead altar at the store.  The conversation led to a bit of planning, and then working with Liz Espinoza, we put together an ofrenda that was not only Altadena specific, but incorporated a bit of the history of the Mariposa Hotel and Model Grocery. These businesses existed where WFS now exists.  Since Días de los muertos is about remembering folks and the past it seemed a splendid route to take.


We began "building" an ofrenda with traditional elements.  We included marigolds, water, candles, and things meaningful to those being remembered.  On Wednesday we got the physical, textural and color structure in place.  On Thursday I was on a mission to find tissue for marigolds and can now tell you all the places in town that don't it.  But I was lucky and found these artificial marigolds and oranges while zooming around town.  Having oranges on the ofrenda was a an acknowledgement to all of those who owned the land and worked the land where oranges were grown.

In a similar way, I found a copy of an image from the Pasadena Museum of History of a person who may have been homesteader or squatter.  In the original image she appears to either be Latina or have indigenous roots.  In any case, it's a bit of an homage to the folks who lived on Indian Flats and other places along the arroyo as the ninetieth century was coming to a close.  The shells and sage stems are arranges as butterflies - las mariposas are on all levels of the ofrenda.

Often ofrendas become communal in nature.  That is certainly the case here.  The candles, chocolate skull, image of a Spanish colonial style house, and the painting were additions by folks who work or live in Altadena.  I suspect there'll be more added as time goes on.  

I'm about to go away for a bit.  I'll be happy to be on the road to New Mexico,  lots of stops while there and on the way returning home.   I have to wonder how the ofrenda will change while I'm gone?


  1. Can't wait to see it. Enjoy New Mexico.

  2. It's rather compact. I intend to enjoy away...

  3. I wrote an article about the ofrenda in Liz's yard for Altadena Patch last year (or was it the year before?). A beautiful tradition.

  4. It was last year. I was in Portland when the article went to print. It was fun to read about home. All the more so since you did such a fine job of writing. It's funny how each ofrenda takes on its own character. Theoretically that makes sense, but it is still inspiring to see how things develop.