Mi Abuelito, Frank Cortez: The Glue that Held La Familia Together!


Dia de los Muertos also known as the Day of the Dead is a traditional “festive and colorful celebration of the Mexican and Latin American holiday” (Diaz, 77), which typically occurs from October 31st through November 2nd. “Almost unheard of in the United States 35 years ago, Day of the Dead, or ‘‘El Dia de los Muertos,’’ has become an annual autumn ritual in…families, schools, community centers, and museums around the country” (Marchi, 932). As a matter of fact, “El Dia de los Muertos, “Initiated in California in 1972 by Chicano artists who were inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos rituals, US expressions of the celebration, which center around public altar exhibits, emerged as part of the multi-faceted Chicano Movement” (Marchi, 932). With regard to the cultural significance of Dia de los Muertos in the Latino/a-Chicano/a communities, Marchi further notes “Many universities observe the celebration as part of Latino Studies, Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, Religion, and Spanish classes. Hundreds of art galleries across the United States, including prestigious museums such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institute, hold Day of the Dead exhibits, while growing numbers of municipal governments and civic organizations sponsor Day of the Dead festivals…” (Marchi, 932). One of the main rituals that people practice when celebrating Dia de los Muertos is the construction of altars. Altars play a significant role in remembering and honoring departed souls (family members, friends, and other significant people). Some of the offerings people place on Dia de los Muertos altars include but not limited to are sugar skulled shaped candies (calavaras), pictures, candles, statutes of the La Virgen de Guadalupe, among other saints, homemade food, Pan de Muertos, alcoholic beverages, water, and flowers, among other items, which have symbolic meaning. In celebrating Dia de los Muertos for the first time, I have chosen to construct an altar to honor my grandpa, Frank Cortez. In this essay, first I detail my grandfather’s biographical information and family structure. Second, I discuss the reasons why I have chosen to honor my grandpa for this altar project. Last, I discuss the significance of each item that I placed on his altar.

To start, I want to detail biographical information about my grandpa, Frank Cortez. My grandpa was born on April 2nd, 1931 in Los Angeles, California to his parents Guadalupe and Cristina Cortez. Both of his parents were born in Mexico, however migrated to the United States in 1919 and settled in Venice, California. I do not know too much about my grandpa’s childhood, however, my mom says that he identified with both his Chicano and indigenous heritage. My grandpa and grandma married on March 21st, 1955. Together they had ten children, seven boys and three girls. In terms of his occupation, he was a truck driver for Long Shore Pumping Company for many years, a very hardworking man-the sole provider of the home. On several occasions my mother has remarked how hard he worked to maintain a “roof over the family’s head and food on the table.” Similar to Carlos and Juan in the article on “Masculinity Reconfigured: Shaking up Gender in Chicano/Latino Literature” my grandfather “provided the basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter for my grandmother and children” (Martinez, 108). The structure of my grandparent’s family is similar to the patriarchal structure of the Chicano family. My grandfather, the patriarch, was the breadwinner and provider “raised in traditional ways of life, …in which it is habitual for males to perform the role of leaders in their families” (Martinez, 106). My grandmother, on the other hand, who is a traditional Mexicana born in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico, was “…relegated to the tasks of homecare and child rearing” (Trujillo, 190). In short, my grandmother’s sole purpose in the home was to cook, clean, and take care of “la familia.” She was “the true backbone of the familia” (Trujillo, 189). Given that my grandparents adopted traditional Chicano/a male and female gender roles in their household, my mom, tios, and tias perpetuated the same gendered roles. The boys took on the male gender roles, which included taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, and picking the weeds and maintaining my grandmother’s beautiful garden; while the females helped my grandma make breakfast and dinner, do laundry, iron clothes, and clean the house (mop, sweep, clean dishes, etc.). To be honest, my grandpa did not want my grandmother to work; he wanted her to take care of their children and home, while he provided the means necessary to survive.

Although my grandparent’s family structure is similar to the traditional Chicano family in terms of gender roles, my grandfather, according to my mom, did not take on the “…the stereotypical machista that drank heavily, gambled, got into fights, and had affairs with other women…” (Martinez, 108). In other words, my grandfather was not hyper-masculine or a machismo. Unlike Sofia’s husband Domingo in the book So Far From God, my grandfather never abandoned his family or gambled the deed away to their home (Castillo, 1993). In fact, my grandpa is the one who bought my grandmother a piece of land; the home where she currently resides, something many Chicanos struggled to do in the late 1950’s. To tell the truth, my grandfather was always there for his family, he made the best of their working class lifestyle. More importantly, my grandpa treated my grandmother and the rest of the family with respect and dignity. In all honesty, my mom says that my grandpa catered to my grandma like a queen. As a matter of fact, he handed his weekly earnings to my grandma every Friday, something “machistas” rarely do in the Chicano family structure. Above all, on several occasions my mom has echoed how respectful, loving, caring, humble, and giving my grandfather was-my grandmother, his children, and grandchildren, were his world. At any rate, my grandfather was an excellent husband, father, grandfather, and provider, whose life ended on April 22nd, 1982 due to acute heart failure and diabetes. He was only 51 years old when he died. In sum, “he was the glue that held “la familia” together!”

Because my grandfather was the glue that held “la familia” together, I chose to make an altar to remember and honor his life. I chose my grandpa because he has played a significant role in shaping my mom’s perceptions about life. Although my grandfather instilled important values in all of his children, my mother, especially, takes on many of his impactful characteristics. All my life, I have heard my mom admire my grandpa’s work ethic and loyalty to his familia. Despite the fact that my memory is blurred when it comes to my grandpa’s legacy, I see many of his characteristics in my mother. Some of the characteristics my mother learned from my grandpa include, having a good work ethic, honesty, loyalty, respect, dedication, dignity, perseverance, compassion, humility, and to be loving. Without these characteristics, I do not believe my mom would have survived many of the challenges she has encountered in her lifetime (domestic abuse, single mother of three, and sole caretaker of my grandmother and disabled uncle). Similar to my grandfather, my mom sacrificed everything for our happiness-we never went without. “…Her strength and self sacrifice continues to keep our family going” (Trujillo, 189). My mother is one of the hardest working women I know who has dedicated her whole life to making sure “la familia” is taken care of physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For this reason, I am grateful for my grandpa’s existence as an excellent father and male role model in our family. He has raised one of the strongest and independent women I know, my mother. In fact, my mother has passed down many of my grandpa’s characteristics to my daughter and me. If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today-a loyal and dedicated hardworking person. As a result, I have chosen to make an altar in my home to welcome my grandpa’s spirit. In welcoming my grandpa’s spirit, I want him to know how grateful I am for teaching my mother the core values that make her the strong person she is today.

Making altars is a part of the Dia de los Muertos tradition widely celebrated in many Latino/a-Chicano/a families. However, my family does not participate in this tradition. Instead, my family visits my grandpa’s gravesite at the cemetery. Typically, the visits take place on holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) and his birthday. Usually, my family place flowers on his grave after wiping it down with a rag and Windex. Once this is done and everyone is settled, my family sits around his gravesite and tells stories acknowledging some of my grandpa’s precious moments. Some family members laugh, while others weep. In addition to reminiscing on past times, my family also brings a radio cd player to play my grandpa’s favorite music. However, over time, my family stopped making this tradition a priority. Little by little, family members stopped participating in the family gatherings. Despite this reality, my mom, my siblings and me still make it a part of our life- we still visit my grandpa’s gravesite annually.

Although my family and I have never recognized Dia de los Muertos as one of our family celebrations or traditions, it is obvious that our customs are very similar to this idea of “honoring and remembering the deceased.” The only difference is that we never built an altar in our homes to honor my grandfather. Instead, we visit his gravesite. However, now familiar with Dia de los Muertos and why people in the Latino/a-Chicano/a communities construct altars, I have chosen to make my own Dia de los Muertos altar to honor my grandpa. To celebrate and honor my grandpa’s life, I have added different items on his altar, which represent some aspect of his legacy. Some of the objects that I placed on his altar include, one of his favorite record albums, mariachi toy, candy bar (Snickers), tequila shot glass, a toy truck, low rider car, bean and cheese burrito con chile, pictures, Virgen de Guadalupe statues, rosaries, candles, skulls, bones, and skeletons. The record album on the altar symbolizes one of his favorite records by Little Joe’s Latinaires. He dedicated a song called Por Un Amor to my grandmother before he passed away. In addition to loving the song Por Un Amor, my grandpa also loved Volver, Volver by Vicente Fernandez, which is the music playing in the video presentation of my altar on YouTube. Aside from music, I also placed a mini mariachi figure on the altar. Since my mom has told me stories about how my grandpa paid mariachis to serenade my grandmother with love songs when they went out for dates on Friday nights, I thought he would appreciate this. I also placed a snickers candy bar on the altar, as they were his favorite type of candy bar. Furthermore, I placed a tequila shot glass on the altar to represent the fact that he loved to have drinks on Fridays after work. Every Friday, my grandfather and grandmother went out for drinks and to dance the night away. My mom says that my grandpa and grandma loved dancing, especially salsa and cumbias. In addition to the tequila shot glass, I also placed a toy truck on the altar to represent his occupation and work ethic. Because he was such a hardworking man, I felt compelled to honor his work ethic. Moreover, I included a low rider car, as he loved classic cars. My mom says that he went to low rider car shows a couple times a year. In fact, he owned a low rider car. Because he loved bean and cheese burritos with chile, it was only fitting to add this dish to his altar. My grandmother says that, “He loved his burritos.” She used to make homemade tortillas, chile, and beans every morning for his breakfast and lunch. Besides food, I added some of my grandpa’s photos. The black and white photo of my grandpa and grandma featured on the center of the altar is one of my grandpa’s favorite photos. On this night, they were out having drinks and ready to dance the night away. I also placed La Virgen de Guadalupe statutes and rosaries on the altar to symbolize the Catholic faith my grandpa followed. Last, as a form of décor, I placed candles, skulls, skeletons, and bones on the altar. By creating an altar with all of these offerings for my grandpa, I welcome his spirit with open arms. I want him know to that he is not forgotten, that his influential spirit lives on in many forms (stories, individual memories, scent of certain foods, specific activities and holidays, and certain songs).

Works Cited

Castillo, A. (1993). So Far From God. New York: W.W. Norton &Company, Inc.

Diaz, Shelley. “Dia De Los Muertos.” School Library Journal 61.8 (2015): 77. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov.2016.

Marchi, Regina M. “RACE and the NEWS: Coverage of Martin Luther King Day and Dia De Los Muertos in Two California Dailies.” Journalism Studies, 9.6 (2008): 925-944.

Martinez, Pablo. E. “Masculinity Reconfigured: Shaking up Gender in Chicano/Latino Literature.” Divergencias. Revista de estudios linguisticos y literarios. 10.1 (2012): 106-15. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Trujillo, Carla. “Chicana Lesbians Fear and Loathing In The Chicano Community”, in Chicana Lesbians, Carla Trujillo ed. (Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1991), 187.

Para Una Mujer Fuerte, Mi Querida Abuelita Rosario

img_7199 For my alter project de Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I decided to focuses on one particular person who continues to be very significant in my present life. The person I have chosen is no longer with us. However, through her love and courage, she has made an impact on my life. My alter project will focused on my maternal great-grandmother Rosario Alvarado Romero De Zaragoza. She was born on August 19, 1920 in La Estancia De Landeros, Jalisco, Mexico and died from a severe cancer illness on July 2001 in San Juan de Abajo, Nayarit, Mexico. Although I was only six years old when she died, I still remember all the great memories I was able to share with her. To me, she was not just my great-grandmother, she was my abuelita Chayo who I love and wish was still alive. Therefore, my altar for Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the existence of a strong, courageous, loveable, and independent woman that she was when she was with us.

Although I do not know much of her childhood life, my great-grandmother was raised in a small village in La Estancia De Landeros, Jalisco. She was the daughter of Juan Alvarado and Rosario Romero de Alvarado and was also one of the oldest child of her family a total of eight brothers and sisters. Growing up my mother Paula Castellanos (Zaragoza Alvarado) would tell stories how my abuelita Chayo and her family lived in a very small house in La Estancia made out of mud bricks. My grandmother’s father was a farmer in the tequila fields in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. However, the Alvarado Romero family was very poor and did not have a chance to provide their children education and other resources. When my abuela was a teenager she got married to my great-grandfather Jose Zaragoza Gonzalez and had about eight children together. The family migrated from La Estancia De Landeros, Jalisco to San Juan De Abajo, Nayarit in search of better economic opportunities to raise their family but was also faced poverty their as well.

My Abuelita Rosario is a very important individual to my family and I because she was the one who raised my mother, Paula. When my mother was born, her biological mother Teresa who is one of the eldest daughters of my abuelita Rosario abandoned her as a newborn baby. My grandmother Teresa was only a teenage when she gave birth to my mother and did not want to deal with the responsibly of having a daughter at a young age especially when my mother’s biological father was not in the picture. As a result, my abuelita Chayo took her in and raised my mother Paula as their own daughter. Since my mother, Paula was raised with her grandmother; she has always considered my abuelita Chayo as the only mother and still in present day she does not have a relationship with her biological mother Teresa. Growing up, my mother Paula would always tell her story to my sisters Melissa, Pamela, and I of how her family lived in poverty and did not have access to resources in Nayarit, Mexico.. Therefore, at a young age my mother began to work selling food in the streets in their village in Mexico with my abuelita Chayo. In addition, to selling food, she would also clean houses, wash, and iron clothes for rich families in their pueblo in Nayarit. She did anything possible to sustain her home and herself.

In our family my abuelita is seen as strong and independent woman who was able to raise her family on her own.  When her husband, my great-grandfather Jose migrated to the U.S to work as a farm worker during the Bracero program, she stayed in Mexico to raise the family on her own. My great-grandfather would come and go from the U.S to Mexico for many years but never really took care of his family. Like many women, she was expected to take care of the children, however; she exceeded the expectations of a wife and mother. She not only cared for the family, but she also worked the fields picking tobacco to economically support the family aside from selling food, cleaning houses, washing, and ironing clothes. With no financial support from her husband, she was the only provider of the family.  When my great grandfather moved and stay at in the U.S permanently, he left behind his family and his marriage with my great-grandmother became distant which resulted in separation. With time she began to develop resentment against him for leaving her and their children behind with no support.  My grandmother Rosario’s story reminded me of the poem, Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway writer Lorna Dee Cervantes  discuss how the female’s roles in the poem took over the male role and adapted them in their everyday lives. Cervantes describes three different women on her poem a grandmother, a mother, and the granddaughter. The grandmother in the poem was able to built a home without the help of a man. Similarly, my grandmother who was able to sustain her home  and “built her house” without the help of a man (Cervantes). The women were portrayed as taking the roles of male and not having to depend on them just like my grandmother Rosario.

As a result, she had to worked hard to support her children and herself. She did not have any help from no one and was able to take care of all her children own. My abuelita demonstrates her ability of being a woman and having to work while still having to be a mother. The family had always admired her braveness and courage. Despite the obstacles she faced in life, she always found a way to move forward. No matter what she would always put her family first.  In the novel, So Far From God author Ana Castillo fictional character of Sophia reminded me of my grandmother Chayo because both take on the role of being the mother who provides economical and mental support for her children since both husbands abandon them. Like Sofia character, my abuelita did not give up on life and continued to go no matter the circumstances. Both Sofia and my grandmother demonstrated a form of resistance to be a strong mujeres despite the challenges that life brought them. For many years she worked hard doing all her jobs just to maintain her family until some of her children began to help her financially. For example, when my mother migrated to the U.S in 1980, she began to work as a domestic worker in Los Angeles, California and would send money back to my abuelita and other members of the family. My mother came to the U.S with the purpose of working for her family to have better access to resources and so my grandmother would not work as much.

When my sisters and l were younger, my parents would take us to Nayarit, Mexico every year in March especially during holy week to spend time with her and other members of my maternal family. My abuelita Chayo gave so much love and care, something my sisters and I never received from my mother’s biological mother. She was a very thoughtful person and would always make sure everyone was okay. Every time my family and I arrived in Mexico, she would always have food for us ready and make us feel right at home. My sisters and I were the only great-granddaughters that would visit her year despite having other grandchildren. Even my father, Manuel Castellanos considered her as his mother because she considered him as a son too. Our family would spend almost a month in Mexico which gave us enough time with her, as a result, my sisters and I had a great bond with her. Although I was very young when we would visit our grandmother, I still remember her a lot. To my sisters and I, she was very kind and lovable.

Unfortunately, when I was about five years old she began to develop stomach Cancer. For about three years, she was in a lot of pain and suffering; the cancer spread fast. Little by little she began very ill with time. I remember hearing her cry in pain in her stomach and she would tell my parents to take us out of the house so we would not see her suffer. As a young child, I did not know what she was going through but as I grew up, I look back and remember her traumatic painful experience. However, even with her cancer, she never stopped being the lovable and caring great-grandmother that she was despite pain and suffering that she was in during the last years of her life. When my family and I would go visit her, she would still received us with love and care despite being in a wheelchair or in bed rest. After battling cancer for three years, she passed away in 2001.  Her death caused us an impact in my family especially towards my mother who still today remembers every day. El Dia De Las Madres (mother’s day) is one of the hardest days for my mother because she no longer has her mother to celebrate it with. My sisters and I lost the only grandmother who had loved us tremendously.

Furthermore, considering this great loss, I thought it would be nice to build an altar honoring my abuelita. In my family, el dia de los muertos is not really celebrated, so building this altar was very special especially for someone that I love. Since it is my first building an altar, I wanted it to be very traditional. I placed one of the few photographs we have left of my grandmother before her cancer began to develop on top of the alter. She did not like to take photographs, so we only have a few pictures of left of her. I also placed various items that I think are significant. For example, next to her picture I placed my personal rosary as a symbol of her catholic faith and as well as her name Rosario. Most of the time she would always carry a Rosary with her and especially when she was very ill.  She was a very catholic women with a lot of faith that would attend church regularly on Sunday but was forced to stop due to her illness. Additionally, I also placed a little bird next to the Rosario because my abuelita used to love having birds as her pets. Over the years, she had a variety of birds such as parrots, cockatoos, lovebirds, and parakeets. I know that each one of her birds meant a lot to her because when one of her birds would die she would cry. Therefore, I decided to place a bird as a symbol of the love she had for her pets.

In addition, to the photo, the Rosary, and bird, I also placed a variety of skulls. Although I wanted sugar skulls, I placed other skulls such as male mariachi calavera (skeleton) and female calavera catrina, two pumpkins painted skulls, and four regular painted skulls. The skulls represent the departed spirit that is no longer here in this world. As I previously mentioned, I tried to keep the alter as traditional as possible. The catrinas and skulls are among the most popular items that are placed in el dia de los muertos altar. However, the male skeleton demonstrate the Mexican culture but adds a touch of the mariachi Mexican regional music to the altar which is was the favorite music type that my grandmother loved to hear.

Moreover, I added a bouquet of the traditional cempasuchil flowers (marigolds) and spread the petals throughout the alter. The flower’s are a ways to guide my grandma’s soul/spirit to the her alter I made for her. The cempasuchil flowers is also know to be “la flor del muerto” (flower of the dead) and are commonly used only for day of the dead. I also placed another bouquet of flowers on the altar to symbolize the love my abuelita had for flowers, roses, and plants. She used to like spending her time gardening flowers and specially plants and would take care of them with love and tenderness. Her plants, roses, and flowers she had planted in her garden in Mexico meant a lot to her and did not like for anyone to touch them. As a kid, I would make sure not to touch them or ruined the garden because she would get angry if anyone damage them.

Furthermore, I also placed food and drinks on the altar which include fruits, traditional pan de el muerto (bread of the dead), water, and a tequila shot glass. The food was laid out for her spirit to have a meal once she came visit her alter. However, the tequila shot glass symbolized her Jalisco roots. On the contrasts, to keep the altar religious, I also added lit candles and small cross, which I made out of tissue paper to recreate cempasuchil flowers to welcome my grandmother’s spirit. Last of all, one of the most important items that was in the alter is a small figure of La Virgen de Guadalupe. My abuelita Rosario was a great believer of the La Virgen De Guadalupe and would always prayed to her especially when she was ill. La virgen is a beloved religious symbol in our family as well in the Mexican culture. Therefore; it was important to incorporate la Virgen into the alter. In addition, the alter helped me commemorate the strong women that my grandmother was. Today, I celebrate her existence through the altar I created, especially recognizing how significant she is in my life. Although she has been gone for a long time now, I still remember and cherish all the time I spend with her as a kid and I know she continues to watch over my family and I. Her story continues to inspire me everyday to become a strong independent women like her despite the adversities. I will continue to honor her life, braveness, courage, and hope to make her proud of what have I become. I will continue to miss her, admire, and love her forever.


La Mujer Que Pudo Con Todo Mi Abue Mati


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.

Altar Project

Alter Project Slides


In honor of my grandparents, my father’s parents, I made an altar for this year’s Día de Los Muertos. Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration that began in Mexico, which is now celebrated in different areas of the World, the people will celebrate their loved ones that have passed on. Many believe that this is a day that those who have passed on will come back to Earth in spirit to spend with their family and friends. The family and friends that are still alive will join in and guide them home by creating altars for them with pictures, items they enjoyed, their favorite food and drinks, etc.

From kindergarten all the way through high school I had attended private school and in elementary school they would create a school wide altar. Majority of the students would bring in different pictures of family and friends that had passed away, parents would donate different items for the altar such as: candles, sugar skulls, food, drinks, desserts, and flowers. The children from each class would also color day of the dead items, skulls, or create their own thing that they wanted on the altar. For the last two weeks of October until the end of the week of Dia de Los Muertos the altar was set up in the school’s patio and a morning assembly would be held the day of. Prayers were said, some would recite memories within their class, music would be played and the names of those that had been written down had been said.

I always sent in the same picture, the only picture my father would actually let me take outside of the house, but it was a black and white photo of my grandparents standing next to each other. Originally, for this class, I was just making an altar for my grandfather, Isidro Murillo, and as I mentioned this to my father he was happy but was not too ecstatic. He had questioned why I was only making one for my grandpa and not my grandma as well, and I did not have a single answer to it. As I began to look for pictures of Mi Chilo, which was what all of the grandchildren call(ed) him, I had noticed there was only a good handful of pictures of him with my grandmother and only two photos we had of just herself. As I continued to pull out pictures from the various picture boxes my mother has in the house, I would take the pictures out on my parent’s bed this way my dad would have to look at them and I would be able to ask questions. My father will share when my siblings and I are together, or when my eldest nephew asks questions, but very rarely does he offer the memories. He often says he will not share much because he thinks about how old they were when they passed away, what they could have looked like now, what they would say if they saw what the entire family has become, and sadness he feels for not being able to have them physically anymore.

After finding the pictures that I did of my grandparents I had decided to make the altar for both of my grandparents. My grandmother, Paula Murillo, was the first to pass away in the year of 1982 due to cervical cancer. Not many of us (my cousins and I) got the chance to meet her but we are often told few of the stories that my father and his siblings remember. The stories that we have been told are that my grandmother was a serious person and was the one who mainly disciplined in the household. When they tell us this I begin to laugh because in my father’s household my grandmother was the main person in charge meaning both of my grandparents would discipline and decide together but my grandmother’s word was the last word said. It was not like in traditional Latino homes that you see the man is head of the household because my grandmother was the one who ran the household majority of the time. When my siblings and their families go out to dinner with my parents and I we are constantly retelling the stories from the past and one that my father brings up from his mother is he remembers when he was about nine or so he was supposed to be doing his part on the ranch and instead he and his younger brother went to the plaza to hang out with their friends and when they got back home their mother was waiting for them ready to discipline them. When he retells this story he begins to laugh as tears well up in his eyes and he shakes his head always ending the story with “the things you take for granted”. As I read Ana Castillo’s, So Far From God, this story would come to mind because when La Loca, Esperanza or Caridad would get into a dark place of their life their mother would take on the responsibility to be there for them but also to let them know to get their life together. So, this story my father had shared several times came to mind because my grandmother was rady to disciple but then she would sit and listen to the adventure.

Occasionally, he will bring up that at the age of seventeen he had decided he was going to crossover to the United States. He mentions that his mother was not too happy about his decision but she did not tell him “no” because his older siblings had gone as well. My father says that my grandmother never told them her reasons on why she was scared but they knew why or often heard both of my grandparents discussing it and it is similar to the reasons now and why children and parents fear deportation now. It’s the sense of losing communication at one point, not being able to be at ease until you hear from them, having to continue your life without them. After the first time my father crossed over he met my mother and then after a few years he went back to Mexico when my grandmother became ill and that was also a time my mother and her family had gone to Mexico. The town from where my mother was staying at is only forty five minutes away from my father’s town and she says she was able to sneak away with her brother and cousin and was able to visit my grandmother Paula at least once. To this day she says she does not regret disobeying that time and going to Mexico because she was at least able to sit and have at least one conversation.

Within my slideshow of the pictures there are a total of four pictures that I found of my grandmother, each at a different stage of her life. She had long black hair, and dark brown eyes, she was also a very short woman. The final picture my father has with her was when she could hardly get out of bed and was still losing weight to the cancer. Within the pictures I have also included a photo of a skirt that had belonged to her that my father had framed to remember her. Many times when we go on our trips to Mexico to visit my father’s two siblings that still live there my aunt constantly tells me I look more and more like my grandmother which gets me emotional because she died fourteen years before I was born and to only feel her through the stories they have shared and to say I have some resemblance to her is amazing.

A year after I was born my grandfather passed away due to pneumonia and I was never given the chance to meet him as well. But, because there are more people within the family who were able to share part of their life with him there are more stories that I am able to hear. From everybody that ever crossed his path I hear he was a sweet, caring, hard -working man who did everything to keep his family loved and well behaved. My father’s family was never a family filled with money but the way that my grandparents raised their children (all eight of them), dressed them, and educated them you never would have been able to tell. In the second slide I placed the only family picture they have and they are all well-dressed have no signs of what their life style was like. My father recalls that Mi Chilo never allowed them to throw themselves pity parties just because they could not have what everybody else did.

I continuously refer back to El Plan de Aztlan because my family has an unwritten bondage that in a time of need we are all there for one another willing to help. We can go months without hearing or seeing each other but as soon as my father’s sister can visit from Mexico or one sibling misses them all it’s a month’s worth of celebration encouraging some to do stuff and giving insight to other’s lives. We all have pride to call ourselves “Murillo” and I truly believe my grandparents set this foundation. Because of the mentality my grandfather had and making sure he instilled this into his children it taught them to keep the cycle going and has continued with us. My mother always recalls when my grandfather would come visit from Mexico they would get lost in hours of conversation and before they knew it there would only be an hour left before my dad would be home and dinner would not be ready so they would both jump up and begin to make something. The way my father is with us, my mother says my grandfather was with him, always hard working and teaching us the value of hard work but also never denying any kind of opportunity for us as well, meaning buying us things for random reasons. With my slideshow there are more pictures of him because he lived longer and was photographed more mainly because he was okay with being photographed. Within all of the pictures of him he has a jacket or rolled up sleeves with jeans and his sombrero either standing or sitting with his legs crossed, and sometimes even dancing. Throughout all of these pictures he has a smile on his face that could brighten up a room and through the ways everybody remembers him it is that exact same reaction. Within the slide there is also a picture of me, in his house (that we all stay in when we visit), wearing his sombrero. It’s been a few years since I took that picture so now it has begun to change colors but my father says the smell is still him as well as his suitcase that is filled with little things he kept in his life.

There are three pictures that show where my grandparents have lived with their children and one place that is only reserved for one child. The first picture is of the rancho where they lived and all of their children had been born and first worked at. Sometimes, depending on how long our visits are in Mexico, we will get together with my aunt and her family and we’ll take my uncle Israel and the neighbors and sometimes my mother’s cousin that will visit us to the ranch and have a carne asada. Someone will take beans and tortillas, nopales, salsa, drinks, rice and dessert and we’ll begin talking about the memories they have from there. My favorite is when my uncles would pick up cow poop and throw it in their sister’s face and then run back to where they were supposed to be before my grandfather caught them. Then, we will begin the various card games that they know while some play hide and seek or baseball but the day usually ends with a walk around the house, at least what’s left of it anyways, and then we’ll make our ways to cars and back into town we go.

That ranch is about thirty minutes away from their next home in the extremely small town Pegueros, Jalisco. The picture that represents this home is the one of the three towers of the church. This town is home away from home for a few of my cousins and I that are here in the United States. We have the ability to walk around that town and feel like we haven’t been gone as long as thought because everywhere you go you hear, “Eres la nieta de Isidro Murillo?” we know where different stores are and the chisme that floats around that town like the back of our hand.

The next slide shows me with two of my nieces standing on top of their grave. The grave is their third and final home, my grandmother at the very bottom, my grandfather in the middle, and at the top is a spot open for my uncle Israel who never married or made a family of his own. Israel is the main one my grandfather was worried to leave behind because we feel (he never has been diagnosed or tested) to possibly be autistic or have learning disabilities. So every year sometimes two, depending on money and if time off of work permits it, my family and I will go visit him. The trips do not feel complete if we do not get to visit their grave. When we do visit I take plastic flowers that can last for a year, my sunglasses, and we begin to pray. Everybody is in their corner heads tilted up or down reciting the prayer as tears gently but quickly slide down our faces. Although, it’s been several years since they have passed I still become upset or sad or both because I never had the opportunity to meet them and to show them what I have accomplished. These three places are always visited by my parents and me when we go to Mexico which is again where most of the stories are told.

In front of a picture that I have of the two of them, I placed two skeletons one of a woman and a man and a rosary tied around them. When I did this it reminded me of the marriage vows “’til death do us part” and how in Catholic weddings the rosary is wrapped around them which binds them as one. In the fifteen years they had apart I believe that the two of them met once again and have picked off where they left off. I also placed a small Mexican coke (with the highest amounts of sugar), pan dulce (pan de muerte), different kinds of Mexican candy and two cigarettes on the altar for both of them. The soda was for my grandfather because he always had a coke in his hand, the bread and candy for both of them because these two were considered luxurious sometimes but they still bought some for their children and one cigarette for each because they both always had a smoke.

Throughout this course I had found several readings to remind me of my family and as I began this altar I had realized that it was because my grandparents had set the foundation. Through the memories we were taught to always make yourself look presentable, to believe in yourself, have pride in who you are and be there for one another. I learned that my grandma made sure it was her way or the highway and this is truly admiring because it teaches me to never settle, always stand up for myself, and that it is perfectly normal for a woman to be in charge. This altar made it feel like it was home away from home and as I created it all the different conversations that had ever mentioned my grandparents had come to mind and it made my heart feel full.

This altar created a time for my father and me to sit down and talk about his parents and allowed him to remember them. This gave me the opportunity to get closer to my grandparents especially because not once did we meet.  Wherever they are and however they are living I know they are together and watching their children, daughters in law, sons in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren with smiles and few frowns.

Dia De Los Muertos Altar, Final



Juana Gomez Avila

Juana Gomez was born January 31, 1942, she was the youngest of 11 siblings. She married Enrique Avila in the summer  of 1962, and had 7 children. She was a great mother, daughter, aunt, cousin and grandma. Juana passed away September 29, 1984 after having chest pain which was then determined to be a heart attack. She was only 42 years old when she passed away, leaving her children and husband to fend for themselves. My youngest aunt was 13 years old, and my mother was 17 years old. My grandmother’s history and legacy lives vicariously through storytelling, pictures, and few personal belongings. I honored my grandmother by doing an altar for Día De Los Muertos, she a person who has influenced my mom and my family. Although she is not physically present in our lives, she is someone we always include and pray for. My family members like my cousins, sister and brothers were not able to meet her, but we all feel her presence and honor her birthday and the day she passed.

My grandmother was young when she married, but with only being 20 she knew it was a good age to marry. She married around the 60’s, and for that time in Guatemala being 20, “el tren casi la dejaba”, translation, the train almost left her, meaning her window for marriage was already starting to close. Immediately after marrying she had my uncle, my aunt and then my mom, and so on she had children every other year. This was something traditional in Guatemala, to marry young, have as many children as god can give you, and work until you can’t any more. My grandmother worked in a Nivea factory, and my grandpa wore many hats. He at one point was a delivery pharmacist, a mechanic and even a carpenter. And this according to “Guatemalan tradition” was not traditional, usually women stay at home, mend the house, raise the children, and have food on the table, but having 7 children required both parents to work.

I don’t have any personal stories or memories of my grandmother, all I have are the stories my mom and family members have told me. My mom rarely spoke about her mother when I was younger, most of the stories weren’t in the best either. My mother was only 17 when my grandma past away, being in her teens, my mom wasn’t able to make a real connection with her. My mom remembers my grandmother being harsh and even cold towards her. Very few times did they ever spend mother-daughter quality time together, for my grandmother saw my mother as the “go-too” of the family. My grandmother was the youngest of her 11 brothers and sisters, so as the baby of the family, she was never told to clean, cook, or help around the house as much as her other siblings. And when she married and had children, she found it difficult to adjust to cleaning, cooking, raising kids, and having a house and husband. My mom took most of the responsibility as the one of the older siblings to be in charge of the house, because my grandmother was always working.

In my recent trip to Guatemala, I spoke to my grandpa, aunts and uncles, who were the closest to her and lived with her. My family remembers my grandma being sweet, kind and always volunteering in her local church. Catholicism is important and has been carried on from both sides of my family. My grandma before passing, was a volunteer at her church and was also a Sunday teacher, she taught catechism to the younger children. With tears in his eyes, my tío Rolando told me she was the strongest women he had ever met, that there was no other woman like her. Tía Odillia was too young to remember her well, but she remembers going to the market and always letting her buy candy. Alberto, my mom’s cousin, remembers my grandma as a loving mother, and aunt to him. My grandpa remembers her sweetly, and referred to her as Juanita, that there was no other women like her, “era una en un millón”, she was one in a million. He said he was honored to have shared the years he did with her. That there was no other love like her love. My family members including my mom, share different memories of my grandmother but they all were blessed and lucky to have shared a moment with my grandmother.

This information without knowing it, helped me create her altar. I made my first trip to Guatemala, Not meeting my grandmother, gave me the chance to carry a love for someone I have never met. Her love and her presence lives strongly in the familia Avila Gomez. For my altar I used the main image of her, floating between angles. In that picture she was about 30 years old. This is one of the pictures I was able to get from my trip. And the other picture in the frame, is the last picture taken of my grandma, it’s a black and white picture of her and my grandpa. These pictures are important for my family because, I was the first member of family to go to Guatemala since my mom and sister came to California. The images are now placed throughout the house, to honor my grandma and have the 4 pictures I brought back home. The candle to the left is El Señor De Esquipulas, which is a Cristo of Esquipulas a city in Guatemala.

This Cristo is important to my mom and dad. Similar to Pablo E. Martinez in Masculinity Reconfigured: Shaking up Gender in Chicano/Latino Literature, “Nationalism is the identity or way of being that pertains to a person’s nation­ality and heritage; it has more influence when that individual lives in the homeland or has just relocated, bringing those customs with him or her to the new country.” Our family has taken my parents customs, and adopted it to our life. My family goes to St. Joseph Catholic Church and we are members of El Señor De Esquipulas. We have carried family customs, and are believers of the same Cristo my grandmother believed in and prayed too.

The owls on the left are owls that family member have brought from Guatemala. The owls are important in our family because my family members in Guatemala love owls, for being rare in the city. The musical instrument to the right is my brother’s instrument that my dad brought us when he went to Guatemala. I used a lot of objects in my house that family friends have brought trough out the years. My mom has no belongings of my grandma so I was not able to use personal belongings of her. The sugar skulls I bought from my local market to keep the altar traditional. I respected my mom’s wishes, and decided not to use too many skulls. The angels that are by the image in the top, are actual candles, my mom only uses them to honor someone who has passed. The smaller angels by the picture frame below, are angles my mom has placed around the house, and thought it would be nice to add more angels to the altar. The candles in the bottom are candles I have in my room, I felt by lighting them and placing them close to my grandmother, she would see me honoring her. My family chooses not to do Día De Los Muertos altar’s because it’s not a Guatemalan tradition. And also being Catholic, it is not costumed to do Día De Los Muertos Altar. My mom and dad instead have small altars for our family members that have passed. We tend to make the altars when it’s the anniversary of the person’s passing. My family altars are also more religious, we use more angels, Cristo’s, roses, candles and flowers.

The honoring of my grandmother created a new conversation with my mom. She remembered the moment when they told her, her mom had passed away. Feeling shocked in hearing the news, and also the day of her burial. My tío Daniel, the oldest brother told me a story I had never heard before about my grandmother’s coffin. When my grandpa remarried, he left the family house and left my mom, aunts and uncles alone in the house. With that they had to pay all the bills including the monthly cemetery for my grandma. My family had trouble paying all the house bills, and the plot for my grandma. With no help from my grandpa, and from other family member, the cemetery proceeded to excavate the remains of my grandma, and through the coffin out. My grandmother was lost in Antigua and believed to have been tossed on the side of a mountain. Keeping in mind, the government in Guatemala isn’t so involved with their citizens, so this was normal to do in Guatemala. This is something my family mourns about, they are sadden that there is no place to go and leave her flowers or pay respect and visit.

What hurts me is never have been able to meet her. My grandpa says, that all his grandkids carry something of her, whether it’s her smile, eyes or even her gestures. My mom’s side of the family is all in Guatemala, which has really limited the chance to connect with them. My trip to Guatemala made me feel not only connected to my country, but also connected to her. Being with all my aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins, made me feel her presence even more. I may have not met her, but I know she is with each one of her kids and grandkids.

The limited amount of time spent with my Avila family also limits the amount of information I know of my grandma. I had mentioned, my mother chooses not to speak about her too much. She said she feared us being sad, and miss someone we had never met before. My mom loved her, but she has held some resentment towards her, and unsolved issues with the family. I think my mom feels that way because, she never was able to deal with her emotions toward my grandma before and after passing.

No one is ever prepared to lose a family member. My mom may not admit it, but she hasn’t dealt with her mom’s passing. Seeing the altar made her happy, but also brought mixed emotions. When I mentioned the project, I asked for permission and she said it was fine. As I began to look at altars online she told me to please not use black colors, skulls or anything that was to “Halloween” for her. I did the altar in her room, and she asked me to do the altar take the picture, but not keep up the altar for more than a day in her room. Respecting my mom’s request I kept the altar lighter, and used white sugar skulls to respect the “non-black” colors that most altars have. I am proud of the altar I created, I was able to respect my mom’s wishes and also honor my grandma.

My altar had few items but I enjoyed creating this altar and sharing it with the class. This was my first Día De Los Muertos altar, and I enjoyed a non-traditional way of paying respect to my grandma. Although I was hesitant in creating something out of my culture, I can respect and even honor those who use this day to respect those who have passed. My traditions are rooted in Guatemala, but I was open to something new. My parents weren’t open to this idea, but enjoyed the final project. My family had never seen a Día De Los Muertos altar because it’s not traditional in our culture, but were amazed to see the results. My mom appreciated the white skulls, saying they were even pretty, and tied in the altar. With all the readings and topics in this class, I have taken away the “traditions” in Latino culture. My siblings and I respect our parent’s culture and tradition, being first generation isn’t easy. But love my roots, my country and my home. This alter was created for my grandmother who countries away from me, but her presence was felt at home.

I honor my loving grandmother the best way I could, I hope that she is proud of me, and continues to be with me and my family. Te amo abuleita Juanita.



Altar for My Grandfather and Grandmother

img_20161019_140805269Altars are a very important part of Día De Los Muertos celebrations. Altars serve as the way that those who are alive pay respect to their loved ones who have passed away. These Día De Los Muertos altars are vary from family to family. However, most of them include items that those that the altar is dedicated to enjoyed. I created an altar for my Grandfather on my Mom’s side and my Grandmother on my Dad’s side. The altar I created was for Amado Geronimo and Emilia Torres. I set up the altar in the living room of my apartment. It is set up right in front of the front door so whenever someone walks in the first thing they see is the altar. I created the altar for my Grandfather and my Grandmother because I feel they are the people who shaped my parents.

My Grandfather passed away when Mom was a teenager. However, my Mom always talks about my Grandfather. She tells me stories of how much of great man he was. When she describes how much of a great man he was my Mom tells me stories of how he always took care of his family. My Grandfather always helped struggling family members no matter if it meant that they had to work harder. For example, at an early age my Grandfather let one of my Mom’s cousins stay with them because she was facing many family problems. Without hesitation my Grandfather let her stay with them and she basically became like a sister to my Mom. I believe this story demonstrates that my Grandfather was a great man who really cared for his family. My Grandfather believed that he needed to keep his family united and help everyone out when they are struggling. She also tells me stories of the different lessons that my Grandfather taught her. One of the stories my Mom has told me involves my Grandfather taking her out to work in the fields. My Mom tells me that my Grandfather taught her how to pick fruit and do many labor related jobs. This served as a way to show her that she is capable of doing any job. My Grandfather taught my Mom how to do jobs that are typically taught to only boys and men. I believe that this helped her understand that she can do anything a man can do no matter how hard the job is. By doing this my Grandfather was teaching my Mom how to fight against patriarchy that is found in society.  My Mom grew up with the idea that a woman can do the same work that a man can do. This is important because my Grandfather wasn’t pushing the patriarchal ideology found throughout Mexico on his daughter. By having her work the same jobs as the boys, my Mom was able to fight against the patriarchy and machismo of the time. It is very noticeable that he had a great impact on her life while he was alive. My Grandfather also had an impact on my Mom’s life after he passed away. My Grandfather passed away while my Mom was a teenager and this really affected her life. Due to this my Mom learned to become independent. The lessons my Mom was taught by my Grandfather served as a way to make her more independent. Without knowing it by taking my Mom out to do physical jobs, my Grandfather was helping my Mom grow to be much more independent woman. My Mom’s life was changed drastically with the death of my Grandfather but it helped her become more independent.

I also chose to dedicate this altar to my Grandmother because she played a huge role in shaping my Dad’s life. While my Dad was growing up, my Grandmother was the one who ran the household. She took care of all the children and worked hard to provide for them. My Grandfather spent most of his time in the United States working so he wasn’t around for long periods of time. Due to my Dad’s father being gone, my Grandmother had to take care of the family. My Dad tells me stories of the struggles that they had to overcome while my Grandfather was in the United States. My Grandfather worked in the United States but never sent any money back to Mexico. This meant that my Grandmother had to work extra hard in order to serve. My Dad tells me how she would do many things in order to bring money home. One of the things she did was make bread. She worked the ovens and made bread to sell in order to survive. The hard work that my Grandmother did shaped my father by teaching him to always work hard. My Grandmother is the reason why my Dad has such a strong work ethic. My Dad works very hard and never does anything without trying his hardest. My Dad tells me stories about the different task my Grandmother would make him do and it is noticeable that it shaped him. For example, my Dad always tells me the story of the chores he would have to do everyday before going to school. He says he would wake up early and walk about a mile to get water and bring it back to the house. He would then have to milk the cows. The final thing he would have to do before he was able to go to school he had to wake up his younger brother. This type of discipline that my Dad was taught really shaped him and his work ethic. My Grandmother taught my Dad that working hard and providing for your family is the most important aspect of life. This is an idea that my Dad has been teaching me for years. He always tells me that no matter what you’re doing you always need to give it a hundred percent. Throughout my life I have seen my Dad work extremely hard to provide for my family. No matter what my Dad always provides what is needed in my family. I know that he was taught to be this way by my Grandmother and I know he appreciate everything she did. My Grandmother passed away 4 years ago. My Dad was not able to see his mother before her death. Due to internalized pain, my Dad doesn’t really bring up stories of my Grandmother anymore. However, when I told my Dad that I wanted to create the altar for both my Mom’s father and his mother he was overjoyed. He went and found a picture for the altar and told me about things she enjoyed. I could tell that my Dad was happy that I was paying my respects to my Grandmother. I felt it was necessary to pay respect to the woman who shaped the man who has influenced me the most in my life. I saw this opportunity as a way to let her know that I appreciate her impact on my life.

When creating the alter I included a variety of items. The first thing I included were pictures of my Grandfather and my Grandmother. The picture were used to show who the altar was dedicated to. The second item I included were candles. I used white candles to pay respect to my Grandmother and Grandfather. My Mom told me that the candles are used as way to guide my Grandmother and Grandfather. The light of the candle is the way the spirit find their way through the darkness. Without the candles, the spirits can get lost and not find their way to their altars. I also included two shots of mezcal. My Mom told me that my Grandfather’s favorite drink was mezcal. Since the alter is supposed to include things enjoyed in life I decided to include itt. I also included some apples to the alta. I included apples because both my Grandfather and Grandmother enjoyed apples. My Mom also told me to include apples because it always good to include fruit in Día de Los Muertos altars The final item I included in my altar was Pan de Muertos. However, I did not use the bread that they sell at the store. In my altar I used regional bread. The bread that I used is bread that is used for altars in Guerrero, Mexico. Both my Grandfather and Grandmother were from Guerrero. I wanted to include the Pan de Muertos that was from their homeland. It serves as a way to pay respect to them and to their land. I also wanted to include the bread because my Grandmother was a bread maker while she was alive. My Dad always talks about how she would make some of the best pan in the pueblo. I wanted to include the bread to pay respect to this aspect of my Grandmother’s life. Those were the items that were included in the altar that I dedicated to my Grandfather and Grandmother.

My Grandmother was a very important part of my Dad’s life. She was the one who took care of the family. She worked very hard to provide for her children. My Grandfather was always in and out of the picture. He would leave for long periods of time and go work in the United States. This would lead to my Grandmother working to provide for my Dad and his siblings. My Grandmother was part of a culture with “institutionalized heterosexism, inbred machismo, and a lack of cohesive national political strategy” (Rodríguez,8). This culture that she was a part of basically told her that she needed My Grandfather in the picture in order to survive. However, my Grandmother was providing for her family without the help of a man. My Grandmother was fighting patriarchy without even knowing it.  By being the leader of the household my Grandmother served as the head of the family. She was in the role that a man is supposed to be in, according to traditional Mexican family structure. She was not a man but was providing for her family the way a man is supposed according to a culture of machismo and patriarchy.. My Grandmother went against the idea that a man is needed in order for a family to survive. She took the role of the head of household and showed that women are able to provide for a family. This idea was fighting the patriarchy that is found in traditional Mexican families. My Grandmother was definitely an inspiration for my Dad. Growing up with my Grandmother working hard to provide showed him that anything can be overcome. My Dad and his siblings faced a lot of problems while my Grandfather was working in the United States. However, my Grandmother did not allow this to stop her from providing and overcoming. I think that my Grandmother’s work ethic showed my Dad that hard work and less to the overcoming of any problem. My Grandmother also served as an inspiration for my aunts. All of my aunts are very hard working and help provide for their household. My aunt Carina is the one I believe she played a big role in molding. My aunt Carina is very independent and does not let her husband provide everything for her. Not only does she work with her husband, who is a gardener, she also does all the housework and even takes care of her grandchildren. Through her actions it is definitely evident that my Grandmother and her way of taking care of her family influenced her. My Grandmother really impacted the life of my Dad and his siblings by showing them that a woman can provide for her family even in a patriarchal society.

Like my Grandmother, my Grandfather was a very important part of my Mom’s life. My Grandfather is the person who impacted all of my family members on my Mom’s side. While many of my younger family members, myself included, never met my Grandfather he still had an impact on our lives. My Grandfather was the one who shaped all my uncles and aunts. He taught them the meaning of hard work. While alive, my Grandfather worked hard to provide for his family. My Grandfather also instilled the idea that family is important. Like Richard T. Rodríguez explains in his book Next of Kin, Mexican families are known for “embracing a family principle as a modality of unity” (98). This is what my Grandfather was trying to teach his children. He taught everyone that family is the most important thing and that it was a way to keep them united.  I have heard stories from my extended family members about how great of a man my Grandfather was. My Grandfather not only took care of his children and wife, he also tried to take care of any of his family members who were struggling. This shows that my Grandfather believed that a family had to stay united and help each other out even if it means working harder. My Grandfather really believed in unity within the family.  My Grandfather’s early death also had a huge impact on my family. His death lead to my family coming together. While it is very unfortunate that he passed away at a young age, his death lead to my family always staying together. All my family members are united and always come together. My Grandfather and Grandmother had an impact on both my parents and my whole family.

Honoring the Dead: My Dia de Los Muertos Altar for My Grandmother


As el Dia de Los Muertos fast approaches, I can’t help but think of all the people who passed away in my family. Fortunately, I have not experienced the many deaths that have occurred in my family since I was not born yet when most of my family members passed away. Although I was not present at the time of my family members’ passing, my family and I still reminisce about the times when they were alive.

One family member that my family and I reminisce the most about is my grandmother on my mother’s side of the family who I never had the chance to meet. Even though I did not have the chance to meet my maternal grandmother, I still decided to dedicate my Dia de Los Muertos altar to her. The reason why I decided to dedicate my altar to my grandmother is not only because she’s family, but also because she was an admirable woman. My grandmother was a marvelous woman who has been painted as being this strong person who sacrificed a lot to take care of her family, despite the struggles she faced during her lifetime. In fact, my grandmother actually endured a tremendous amount of suffering before she married my grandfather, and even while she was married to my grandfather. Though there was love, loyalty, and trust between my grandparents, my grandmother did not end up having the blissful life she hoped to have after leaving an unhealthy family to marry my grandfather.

Growing up, my grandmother lived in poverty. Due to this poverty, her family forced her to work at such a young age. Because my grandmother was too young to take on the same types of jobs adults tend to have, my grandmother failed to bring home enough money, causing her to be scolded by her parents. For years, she endured emotional and mental abuse from her parents because she was seen as not a good enough to them. That is why, when my grandmother met my grandfather, she had hoped to marry him in order to leave her family and live a better life with him. However, although my grandfather loved her very much, she continued to live in poverty until her dying days while taking care of all her children on her own.

It is for this reason that my grandmother is such an admirable person. I look up to women like my grandmother, and even my mother, who was fortunate enough to have the same family values my grandmother had, who put their families first, no matter what, since family plays an important role in my life. Thus, I built this altar for my grandmother to convey the love and admiration I have for her, as well as to help her with her journey through the afterlife, in spite of the fact that I did not meet her in person.

Though I never got the chance to meet my grandmother in person, I have had the opportunity to get to know her through the family stories my mother has passed down to my siblings and I. Unfortunately, my mother was not able to “convivir” with her mother for too long since, sadly, my grandmother passed away when my mother was barely twelve years old. Nonetheless, my mother was still able to tell me fascinating stories about my grandmother that my mother was able to either hear, experience, or witness herself.

One story my mother told me as a child that I still remember till this day is the story of how my grandmother passed away. My grandmother died from complications after giving birth to her tenth child (my uncle). My mother told me that her mother, while married to her father, unfortunately, suffered two miscarriages that hurt physically and emotionally. In addition to the miscarriages she endured, my grandmother suffered the loss of a child, due to poison, as well. For this reason, my grandmother’s body was not strong enough when she gave birth to my uncle, which caused ended costing her life. Nevertheless, my mother told me that my grandmother passed away loving every single one of her children.

Aside from the story of how my grandmother died, there is another story, out of all the stories my mother has told me about my grandmother throughout the years, in particular that I will always remember. My mother once told me that one day, my grandmother was extremely worried about not being able to have food for the family since my grandfather, who was a farmer, was struggling to produce any money with the beans and vegetables he was growing at the time. So, that day, my grandmother started to pray to have something, anything, on the table to eat. A few hours later, a neighbor came by to see my grandmother, hoping to see if she had any extra textiles, since my grandmother sewed during her free time, that the neighbor could buy off of her to make a tablecloth. Recently, my grandmother had received some nice textiles as a gift from one of her friends, and she had initially planned to make her children clothes in time for the warm weather. However, because she needed the money to buy at least some “frijolitos y torillas,” she decided to sell her neighbor these textiles. My mother, then, told me that when my grandfather came home that day, he walked into the house with his head held down ready to give my grandmother the bad news that he did not end up making any money that day; but, to his surprise, he came home to food on the table and a look of relief came across his face.

I enjoy hearing stories of my grandmother because, even though she lived a stereotypical Latina life of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, she was by far a strong woman who did anything for her family. My grandmother, unfortunately, lived during a time where society was short-minded, and expected the woman to stay at home to take care of the home and children while the man went off to work. During this time, the Latino family, as Richard Rodriguez notes in his text, Next of Kin,was romanticized as being a heteropatriarchy in which “la familia” was comprised of a strong husband-father that supported the loving wife-mother who took care of their children. Rodriguez argues that “in this romanticized haven- a ’nation’ defined within the contours of domesticity-the archetypal [Latina] would necessarily provide a feminine spirit of maternal consolation (in spite of her suffering) while ensuring the procreation, hence survival, of [Latino] culture” (2). In other words, my grandmother was expected to support her husband and have lots of children despite her any suffering she endured by doing so. In addition, she had to keep up with society’s expectations by also having to cook, clean, and take care of her children while society allowed her husband to run the house, control his wife, and direct his children without taking into consideration the hard work a woman did for her family.

Regardless, though my grandmother had to play out the stereotypical Latina role of the stay-at-home wife and mother within the heteropatriarchy of “la familia,” through the stories my mother told me, I believe my grandmother was able to prove that women are far more stronger than men think. Although society tries to paint women as inferior to men within a heteropatriarchy family, women like my grandmother demonstrate that a woman’s job is not easy. Women sacrifice as much, if not more, than men do for their families, and that is exactly what my grandmother proved when she was still alive. Therefore, what my grandmother has proven is what I admire about her; it is precisely what empowers me as woman myself.

Before I move on to discussing how I structured my altar, I would like discuss how, despite not being Mexican, as a Guatemalan, I still appreciate Dia de Los Muertos because I like the idea of honoring the dead. Although I have come to learn that Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in Guatemala, we don’t and have never celebrated this holiday in my family. Interestingly enough, I found out that Guatemala does celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, in spite of my belief that didn’t, except their version of the holiday differs in comparison to the way Mexicans celebrate it. In Guatemala, el Dia de los Muertos, or Dia de los Difuntos as they call it, is a celebration that marks the beginning of the holiday season for most Guatemalans. It is a three-day celebration that starts off the holiday season, which is then followed by La Quema del Diablo, Las Posadas, Noche Bueno, Navidad, and Año Nuevo. Similar to Mexico, on October 31st and November 1st, many Guatemalan families gather to honor their dead in family cemeteries; however, they do not tend to build altars for their dead loved ones. Then, on November 2nd, people tend to continue to honor the dead by flying giant kites overlooking the main cemetery in Sumpango, Guatemala. During this day, there is music, dancing, and food while kites are raised in the air for all to admire.

Nevertheless, regardless of the fact that Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in my home country, my family does not partake in this holiday. Because of this, I admittedly had trouble constructing the altar for my grandmother. This is the reason wh my altar may not be big in scale nor has many details. Still, I made the altar in honor of my grandmother, and that is good enough for me.

When I built my altar, I covered a table with a purple tablecloth. I chose a purple because it’s the color of mourning. The only image my mom has of my grandma, is the image I placed in a gold-colored frame. Since yellow was her favorite color, I placed a bouquet of yellow carnations beside the photograph of my grandmother. I also placed yellow carnations in my altar because carnations symbolize health and energy, along with love, which is what I hope my grandmother feels wherever she is. Aside from that, I placed a sugar skull ornament in my altar as well to symbolize death since skulls represent death. I used white candles to light my grandmother’s path to the afterlife because white candles give off pure energy. The salt I placed in front of my grandmother’s photograph is used to help keep her from rotting as she journeys to the afterlife. The last things I then added to my altar was fruit and a cup of water to give as an “ofrenda” to my grandmother that she can feed off of during her journey to the afterlife as well.

My altar may not be as extravagant as the many altars people have built for their loved ones, but I know my grandmother appreciates and honors her, but it also pays respect to her. I may not have had the chance to meet the incredible woman, but I thank her for raising my mother to become the incredible woman my mother she has been to me. Maybe one day, I’ll get to meet my grandmother on the other side; for now, I will do my best to honor her until then.



Altar Final Project


“Te Amo Mas Que Me Vida”

URL of Altar: https://flipagram.com/f/y3sJ6w9JYO

            The alter I created is for my beloved uncle, Ricardo Cano Zamora, who has passed on two years ago. His death impacted my life and my family’s lives because he was very important to us in many ways. My uncle, Ricardo, is my mother’s oldest brother. My mother treated him like her son because when they were very young, their father walked out of their lives. So my uncle was always around me and my sisters. He was like a second father to us because he gave us a lot of love and time. My uncle never got married or had kids, so we were like his children.

Throughout my uncle’s life, he had to deal with poverty, alcoholism, and drugs. My uncle had a tough outlook in life and was always struggling with his drug and alcohol addiction. Although, my uncle was an alcoholic and was addicted to drugs, he never brought that lifestyle to me and my sisters. He kept that very private, but of course, my mother knew and her family members. Once, my sisters and I got older, we started to understand why he was in jail for so many years and why he got addicted to alcohol and drugs.

I decided to create an altar to honor his life and his death, because despite all his flaws, I loved him very much and he was very important to me and my family. My uncle was my hero and without him I feel incomplete. My uncle was very important and significant to me because despite him being all crazy into his addictions, he was always loveable with my sisters and I. My uncle loved us unconditionally, and so did we. My uncle was the black sheep of his family and he did not follow the traditional Chicano/a family structure. My uncle was a drunk and drug addict, which pushed many individuals away from him because to them he was not “normal”, or “he needed help”. But yet, no one offered to help him, only my mother.

After he was out of jail, he got deported back to Mexico, so I did not always have the chance to see him. I would only see him when I would go to visit for vacation. It was hard being away from him, but I knew that there was not much I can do. Throughout his years living in Mexico, he started to become ill and never went to the doctor. All he would say was that he was fine and it was just a cold. My uncle was a very brave person and did not like any of us worrying about him. His lack of not taking care of himself put him a rough situation. In his last days of being alive, he finally went to the doctor but it was too late. The doctor had diagnosed him with Hepatitis C and the sickness was advanced. They gave him three days of life, so my family and I rushed to Mexico within the next day but it was too late. Later that night, he had passed away and we were barely heading over to Mexico.

Before he died, he became very religious and gave himself to God, so he became clean and did not do drugs or drink alcohol. He was a man of the Lord and he was very into going to church and devoted to God. So in the altar I created, I placed all religious items like the bible, in which he loved. My uncle also loved to smoke cigarettes so I placed one cigarette for him because it was something he enjoyed to do. I put many of him pictures and pictures that my family had with him. I put holy water and placed bread for him as well. Overall, my altar included religious beliefs like rosaries, bibles, picture of saints and god, flowers, and holy water, because before passing away, my uncle devoted his time to being into all religious practices.

One of my favorite items in the altar I created for him was, his picture, because it made the altar relevant and his face in the picture looks like it is lit up and happy. I set his picture in a frame and centered it in the middle of the table and then added all the other items around his picture. My second favorite item is the bible I set right next to his picture. The bible is an important and significant item in the altar because my uncle was a son of God and God had forgave him for all of my uncle’s sins. The bible is an important item in our family as well so it was important for me to place it in his altar. The third item I placed in his altar is a cigarette, like I stated before, my uncle loved to smoke cigarettes on his free time so it was an important item to be placed in his altar. I am pretty sure he was happy I placed his favorite hobby in his altar.

The fourth item I placed in his altar is a cellphone. Why a cellphone you may ask? Well, my uncle loved to be on his phone and be on social media, listen to music, and play games on his phone. I know the cellphone kept him alive for a couple of months so that is why the cellphone was a significant item in his altar. Before he passed away, he had told me that his cellphone was not working so I was going to buy him a new one so I can take it to him when I visited him. But unfortunately, I did not make it in time and it was just a thought which is why I was so upset and I had to add a cellphone in his altar.

The fifth item placed in his altar was God figures and saints. These items are significant to him and to myself, because like I had stated, my uncle became very close to God and would always be at church. My uncle had God images everywhere, like his phone and his room. These items are significant to me and my family because my family is very in touch with God and are religious individuals so growing up that is what I was taught. God brings us hope, faith, and happiness, so I connected this to my uncle because I had a lot of hope for him to get better and healthy again. I also added rosaries because my uncle was had a rosary on his body and in his room. The rosary also reminded me of the time I saw him for the last time in his casket. It was a horrible feeling but I saw that rosary and I knew he was with his father, which is, God.

My uncle brought so much happiness to my life so that is why I added flowers in his altar as well. These flowers are significant because they mean life, love, and happiness to me. These flowers made the whole altar feel like home and welcoming. I choose orange and yellow flowers because it was the colors of fall and these colors were bright and vibrant to bring life to his altar. I added candles of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ to his altar and every day and every night I light up the candles to let him know I am always thinking of him and be will always be in my mind and my heart. The last item I added to his altar is a saint figure, who is very special to me and my family, that saint figure is named La Rosa Mistica. La Rosa Mystica is a blessed Mary who create miracles and gives individuals hope. My family always prays to her and miracles come true because of her. When my uncle was very sick, I would pray to La Rosa Mystica to help my uncle get better because I needed him in my life. La Rosa Mystica is very significant in his altar because she brought me peace during his sickness and after his death.

I had fun creating this altar for my uncle, I know he enjoyed his altar and he is happy I gave him a place of his own in our home. My mom had made an altar for him but did not include many things, so I fixed it up for my mother as well. When my mother saw my altar, she started to cry of happiness and told me that she knows my uncle is in heaven looking down on us and thanking us for remembering and celebrating his life. My uncle still lives in us and we will always have the best memories because of him and for that I thank him. The only downside of him not being here is that my children will never met him. I only can show them pictures of him and talk about the memories he gave me.

Migration and Children

This week’s viewing and listening are around the experience of migration and immigration and what the experience of being undocumented does to children. Please respond to these works: “Are the Kids Alright” and “Which Way Home” below. What are the experiences of children from families who are undocumented? What are the effects of this stress? How can or should Chicana/o studies and Chicana feminist theory help us respond to the threats experienced by undocumented children? What should be our response to the threats posed by deportation?

You may also respond to this with your own questions and other readings you find helpful or thought-provoking.

Thanksgiving Traditions

After listening to Latino USA’s podcasts I’ve linked to on Blackboard, please write a response in the comments below. How would you answer the podcasts’ questions about Thanksgiving, a Latino spin or no?

I’ll start.

Thanksgiving Day my partner and I spend with friends rather than family because a lot of my family works on Thanksgiving due to the extra overtime they can earn on Thursday. For our friends’ Thanksgiving I make pumpkin pie and cranberry apple pie. Most of the people we celebrate live in Los Angeles now, but are from out of state. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my mom generally makes the whole turkey dinner with trimmings. The Californianess of it is we spend the time outside. We also usually have tamales as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Our other holiday tradition is we draw names to know who we’re going to buy Christmas gift for.