Altares for mis muertos

During this year’s Day of the Dead, I took a step back to breathe in the emotions that come with remembering my muertos. There are days of guilt for moving on with experiences I wish I could’ve shared with them. Fiestas, new additions to the family, laughter, memories.

Nobody warned me that time would make it harder. I’ve always heard it gets easier with time, but that’s just a lie to provide comfort.

I didn’t do so because it wasn’t a custom we grew up with or practiced in our home, but I often think creating an altar during Day of the Dead is something I’d like to pick up sometime to celebrate with my nieces and nephews in a means to help them remember the ancestors who would’ve loved them so much.

In creating altares for my beloved, these are the supplies I would need to create my ofrenda:

– yellow marigolds (cempazuchitl) for traditional purposes
– forget me nots to emphasize I’ll forget them not
– paper flowers and papel picado created by my family
– images of my dearly departed
– a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe, particularly in memory of my Abuela Carmen & Great Abuela Toña, devout followers
– candles to light their way home
– a mantel I was gifted by my Great Aunt Tomasa during my last visit with her in our family’s ejido in Durango, MX
– a Big Red for ama, pan dulce for my abuelitas, tamales for my great aunts, beans for my abuelos, and pasta for my brother
– playing cards for ama and my brother Tim, gamblers at heart
– glasses of water for sustenance during their journeys
– incense to purify the air
– letters/drawings from my nieces & nephews as gifts to their grandma & uncle
– Band-Aids for my brother, the biggest clutz ever

I’m sure my family would have input on what else we could decorate our altares with. What would you use to honor your dearly departed when creating an altar?

Little Moments: 3/20/22

I’d like to say it’s been an eventful day, but it really hasn’t. Hasn’t been a lazy day either. I’ve spent most of the day with my hair up in an unflattering bun and typesetting a book as part of my work with FlowerSong Press. Which, btw, many new book releases are coming up – including one of my own! I’ll share details soon!

This cup of Joe to the left was to entice me to be productive this morning as I left home and headed over to my sister’s house. Most of my family is out in Colorado for a week-long trip during Spring Break and I’m on auntie puppy sitting duties.

For breakfast, I made myself some weenie and egg tacos, and made sure to toast up some of the weenies for my puppy niece to snack on too. I had a chisme session with my best friend, Esther, who now lives in Fort Worth and heard me complain about how it’s not fair I haven’t found a coffeeshop partner after she left. It’s really an art to go to a coffeeshop and pretend to work while chit-chatting and sharing silent moments for hours on end. There was so much to catch up on, a few tears and venting, and I’m really excited I get to see her next month at the annual TLA conference.

After our chat, I got straight into working for a few hours and also made a few updates to my website, which I should really put more time into.

During breaks, I’d go pet the puppy, who is more of a viejita than she is a puppy. But my motto is: once a puppy, ALWAYS a puppy. La chiflada would follow me to the kitchen every time I went to reheat my coffee, thinking she’d be getting a snack.

Today I wanted to fill my mind with purpose because it’s a day of grief. The anniversary of when we buried my mami four years ago. And although it seems it’s been more than enough time to have dealt with it, I can’t help but to be filled with sadness. I woke up knowing I should go to the panteón to leave her some flowers, and I felt she would appreciate that, but my heart is to heavy and I don’t have the strength to go alone today. My chat with Esther this morning really helped fill that void of loneliness.

It didn’t help that I took a midday break to snack on a quesadilla as I watched an episode of ‘Life after Death with Tyler Henry’. Puro llorar! Do you believe in mediums?

It’s been a gloomy day and I’m grateful for the comadres that have reached out to me. I made plans for dinner next week at Mercado District, which I will try to blog about, with two former coworkers of mine. They are the most fun to catch up with, and have been a part of my journey after mami’s death.

This image here is of my sister’s backyard. Her neighbors in back have several horses and a lot of brushland that reminds me of my childhood in Las Milpas. Standing out there just looking at it gave me some comfort.

For now, I’ll pack up my laptop and head home for a bit. Made plans to go for a cruise this evening to just get to catch-up with a dear friend. Hasta luego!


I ran across this image a couple of hours ago of my nephew Fabian. He’s a sassy pre-teen now, but in this photo, he was momentarily a pensive toddler. He’s looking out of his bis-abuelita Pera’s living room window, staring at the plants or cars passing by.

In the instant that I saw this photo on my laptop screen, it took me back to my childhood and the many windows I can recall glimpsing out of. I can close my eyes and go back to those moments as if it had just happened.

There are windows that feel so far away such as that time I sat up inside apa’s red Chevy Silverado. A confused 7-year-old trying not to cry after waking up in an empty truck that had just been rocking past pot holes and bumpy dirt roads. We had arrived in San Bartolo (the ejido my family is from in Durango) and although we took yearly summer trips to visit the Suarez and Fabela clans, I was too shy to just jump out of the vehicle in search of my parents. I sat there for what felt like hours, worried my family had forgotten about me. I remember my great-aunt Tomasa catching my gaze as she came out of the kitchen with a basket full of fresh queso she had prepared herself.

Years later, I was in my early twenties and apa, abuelo, and I had taken a week-long trip back to the rancho. It was a few days after abuelo’s sister, Lupe, had passed from diabetes complications. This time, I sat in the back seat of a green Taurus and it was pitch dark as we pulled up to the home my grandfather and his parent’s had called home in the 1920’s. It was past midnight when we arrived at the house. To our surprise, there were a dozen relatives who had stayed up with my great-aunt Tomasa. Her eyes caught mine as we parked and I felt a sense of familiarity in an instant. It must’ve been about ten years since I had last seen her.

That night, I slept in a small room inside the family’s old adobe house, uneasy with so many thoughts of my ancestors who had slept on the same bed I lay my head on. The windows were kept open, something I wasn’t accustomed to because of the South Texas heat back home. The cool breeze and swaying trees made me imagine hearing spirits and the stories of my great-grandmother Antonia kept creeping up on me.

Toña would tell me that ventanas are not just what you can see. It is what you can hear. What you can imagine. What your spirit sees and warns you about with the tingles that run through your arms and shoulders. Because of that ventana she opened in my memory, I spent a sleepless night in a home that now I wish I had spent more time exploring.

Memories are the ventanas I can use to share my memories of my ties to San Bartolo, Durango with my nieces and nephews. Abuelo’s generation all gone now. He was our connection to the rancho of his youth and the stories of our gente.