The altar I created was in honor of my grandmother from my father’s side, Matilde Rivera de Auroza. I wanted to do an altar for my grandmother for several reasons. One of them was because I never got the opportunity to meet her in person; she passed away in June 2010. I recall the day in which we got the news that my grandmother died, at first it did not affect me because I did not know anything other than she was my grandmother, and I was younger at the time. As I started to ask around I was influenced by the stories that my family members told me about her that made her such a strong woman. My grandmother suffered a lot with my grandfather while she was alive. When I went to Mexico a year after her death and I saw her grave it made me feel bad for not going when she was still alive. Although I never got the opportunity to meet her, I know she was a wonderful woman and I feel a deep connection to her. My family members from my father’s side say that I have the same personality as my grandmother because we have a great charisma and have such a great heart, which makes us get a long with anybody we meet. My grandmother and I also have several things in common that I did not know about from liking the same food to some face features. Creating the altar in her honor caused several emotions within my persona because I really love this woman, and this altar project has been very meaningful to me.
There are several items I included in this altar for mi abuelita Mati. To begin with I laid out food that my grandmother enjoyed to eat. My mother told me that when you do and altar for someone we have to place food or items that they enjoyed when they were alive. My mother and I cooked a meal for my grandmother so that she can enjoy upon her arrival. We made adovo con pollo, which is basically red chile with chicken a dish that my abue enjoyed as a young girl growing up in Puebla, Mexico. We also added rice and beans to go with the adovo. I also laid out a variety of fruits such as, apples, bananas, pears, and peaches; these were my grandmother’s favorite fruits. Something that could not miss in this altar was pan dulce (sweat bread), typically all altars contain Pan de Muerto, but I also included other types of bread like conchas, colorados that are my favorite as well as for my grandmother. For drinks I placed three, which are hot chocolate so that it can accompany the bread, Coca-Cola because that was my grandmothers favorite type of drink, and lastly water as my mother would say because “she might be in need after her long journey.” Something that was very interesting to me as I placed the items for my grandmother was how one of my tias told my mother that we were not supposed to have opened the can of soda. We were supposed to have left it closed because what if my grandmother decided to take the soda in her journey back. One of the drinks that I did not include and that my grandmother enjoyed was tequila and beer, once in a while my grandmother enjoyed to drink. We placed a candle because that will guide my grandmother to our altar. It is said that candles help the person you are calling get to their destination. Another element that will guide my grandmother to the right path is the Flor de Muerto Terciopelo and Flor de Cempasúchil these are flowers that cannot miss on an altar. The flowers are important because they signify the vulnerable and not permanent life one has, and how one day it is taken away. These flowers also only bloom right on time for Dia de los Muertos. Another important thing in the altar was having the bible open, and having several images of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which is an image we honor a lot in my family, and also my grandmother always prayed to the Virgencita. My family is very catholic so having the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe and the open bible mean a lot in this altar. It was very important for my mother and I to place items that my grandmother enjoyed when she was alive because we want her to feel welcomed when she arrives for Dia de Los Muertos.
My grandmother Matilde married my grandfather Jose Auroza Gonzalez at such a young age. She was around the age of thirteen, and my grandfather was around eighteen or so. In Mexico where my grandparents are from it was very normal for young girls to marry at a young age. During her marriage with my grandfather my abue Mati was a victim of violence, patriarchy, and machismo. My grandfather would always insult my grandmother in horrible ways. For example, whenever my grandmother would prepare a meal for him, if my grandfather did not like it he would throw it on the ground and demand she cooked the food right or make something better. Also if the food did not taste the way it did when she had previously done it he would also throw it to her. My grandfather similar to Miguel Grande in the novel The Rain God by Arturo Islas, he was very machista. My grandfather always wanted to maintain an image in front of people to demonstrate that he was a strong man, not weak. My grandfather never showed love and affection to my grandmother, and never contributed to helping raise her thirteen children. He also never approached his children with love; all he did was hit them if they misbehaved. All my grandfather did was just go check up on his corn mill. He also always demanded that his clothe were nicely ironed and washed to perfection. Any little mistake my grandmother would make he would be quick to insult her about it. My grandfather Jose would not hesitate to scold at my grandmother in front of people making her feel embarrassed and ashamed. As I do class readings, whenever I read about patriarchy and machismo, my grandmother comes to my mind. She was a real victim of what society considered normal. This infuriates me because she did not deserve to be mistreated. She was ripped apart at such a young age, and she passed through a lot of bad moments being with my grandfather. Other women often times also looked down on her and blamed her for what she was going through. Instead of being her support they would say “Ella se lo busco”. Which reminds me of the poem Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway by Lorna Dee Cervantes, where she states, “It’s her own fault, getting screwed by a man for that long”. Instead of reaching out to her people would just watch and not do anything. On the other hand, if my grandmother would have decided to leave my grandfather she would have still been looked at in a negative way because who was going to provide for her and her children if there was not a father figure. Whether one does something positive or negative people always talk. Therefore, everything my grandmother went through was for the love of her children. She had so much love for them that the pain indulged from my grandfather only made her stronger to provide for her children. This only makes me cherish my grandmother even more because she experienced so much, yet she never gave up and kept moving forward. Her children her motivation and encouragement in life that she took all the mistreatment she faced with my grandfather.
The pain caused by my grandfather was killing my grandmother very slowly because she became very ill. My grandmother was diabetic and developed a huge pain in her legs that made it very difficult for her to walk. My father and his siblings would frequently send her money so that she can be cured. However, my grandmother did not want to have a surgery because the doctors told her that in order for her to be cure they would have to remove one of her legs, and she did not want that. Therefore, at a certain point no type of medication or herbal remedy worked to cure her pain, and sadly she passed away. Her death caused so much sadness within my father’s side of the family because they didn’t understand why God took such a strong and caring woman away. My father and his siblings felt so much resentment toward my grandfather, and at first blamed him for my grandmother’s death. They always made comments such as if he would have never mistreated her then she would have not passed away. However, as years have gone by my father and his siblings realize that my grandmother is in a better place with God because she no longer has to suffer with the machismo and patriarchy my grandfather made her live. My grandfather took for granted the love my grandmother had for him because he now knows that he made her suffer, and no one else would have tolerated all his mistreatments the way she did. My grandfather also knows that because of the way he acted this caused his children to not love him. My grandfather pushed his children away and when he tried to win their love back it was already too late.
For so long machismo has been part of our culture. As stated in the poem “Machismo Is part of Our Culture” by Marcela Christine Lucero-Trujillo, “machi-machi-machi-machismo is part of our culture”. However, my grandmothers death stroke the men in my family and made them realize that women are valuable, and that they should not be taken for granted nor should they suffer. My father has always made sure that he makes my mother feel valuable, he makes sure that all roles in the household are equal, and he is not ashamed to cook, clean, and wash clothing. Since my father saw so much violence during his childhood he has made sure that the story does not repeat itself. He has told me several times how he has not been able to forgive my grandfather for everything he ever did, but also that he is sure that he wont make the same mistakes his father did. My other uncles, brothers of my father also make sure to not treat their wives the same way my grandfather treated my grandmother. My father and his siblings also make sure to provide my cousins and I with nothing but love because they know that it also means a lot. In creating this altar I have came to respect, honor, and cherish this wonderful woman. I was never able to have met her in person, but she sure does mean a lot to me. Although she is dead her presence and her strength still impacts me, and I know that wherever she is, she is watching over me, and admiring my hard work to fight against machismo and patriarchy. I will make sure to keep here presence alive and make my cousins see my grandmother through the same lens that I see her. This year my grandmother’s altar was way more meaningful because I was able to make the connection with themes that I have learned in this class. I am also honored to give my grandmother a voice and in sharing her experience to demonstrate the wonderful women she was. I will forever have my grandmother in my heart and love her so much. My abue Mati is my guardian angel one that will never abandon me in my toughest times, and for that I am thankful of because I know she guides me through the good in life.