These Moms Bring Life to The Day of the Dead
Mexico’s celebration of the dead dates back to pre-Colombian cultures.
It was a month-long festivity that started on the ninth month of the Aztec calendar (around early September) with large feasts, celebratory dances and massive gatherings. Several centuries later, the celebration turned into a holiday celebrated annually on November 2.
In Mexico, people honor the dead by building private altars or shrines in their homes with ofrendas (offerings) that have candles, decorations, favorite meals, and photo memorabilia of the deceased. People dress up and highlight the bright and vivid colors of the culture into their observances.
“It’s a very unique way of honoring our ancestors and showing our children that when it comes to death, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Life and the afterlife are both celebrations,” said Gabriela Espinosa Aguilar, a high school history teacher at Escuela Secundaria Técnica no. 84 “Belisario Domínguez Palencia” in Mexico City.
In Los Angeles, the city has embraced this tradition and welcomed Dia de Los Muertos with jovial and picture-worthy events and art exhibits, like the one currently on display in Downtown LA’s Grand Park.
Many Los Angeles moms are proudly celebrating this unique tradition and whether intentionally or not, they’re raising awareness about this distinctive aspect of Mexican culture. Mommy In Los Angeles® Magazine reached out to three of them:
If you visit Plaza de la Familia, a special exhibit at the Disney California Adventure theme park, you may to feel the need to start dancing as soon as Cindy Shea picks up her trumpet and starts playing to the tune of El Son de la Negra, a popular mariachi song. Shea will likely be performing with a colorful sugar skull face painting in support of Disney’s upcoming release of its highly-anticipated Pixar animated film, Coco.
The Irish-Italian mom of a young boy is the founder of Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea, a nationally recognized female-only mariachi group based in Los Angeles.
She has broken barriers in a male-dominated industry and has received praise for her trumpet-playing skills and leadership in directing successful mariachi bands. By commemorating the Dia de Los Muertos celebration with cultural pride, she’s highlighting the importance of this tradition to an international audience that visits the Disneyland Resort on a daily basis.
“A couple years ago, one of my girls started painting our faces,” Shea told Mommy In Los Angeles® Magazine referring to one of her fellow musicians. “We thought it was a great idea and she does a great job.”
When Shea was a student at Cal State Fullerton, she caught the attention of Latin Jazz icon Arturo Sandoval who offered to take her in as his student along with a full-ride scholarship to Florida International University, where she studied jazz performance.
Today, Shea is promoting her latest album Recordando a Juan Gabriel, which is a tribute to the Mexican singer and songwriter that passed away last year.
If you’re among Lily Martinez’ 70,000 followers on Instagram, then you know she has a remarkable eye for creativity.
The Los Angeles born and raised mom of four is an all-around craft extraordinaire who draws, paints, sews, cooks, makes, bakes, creates, builds and decorates. She makes everything look easy and aesthetically pleasing, and her followers are always eager to see her next creation.
Martinez, who formerly worked as a Barbie fashion designer for Mattel– dedicates special attention each year to her one-of-a-kind Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos costume and make-up ideas. This year’s Dia de los Muertos ensemble was no exception. She created her Catrina gown and elegantly wore it during the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Dia de los Muertos celebration.
“I just love everything about Dia De Los Muertos– the costumes, the vibes, the flowers, the family & friends, the culture… and of course celebrating the life of the loved ones that are no longer with us in this world,” Martinez said on her Instagram account.
Among the details found on her 2017 Dia de los Muertos outfit, a stunning heart applique with sequins, glitter and ornate details, a delicate lace veil, skeleton hands painted over sheer gloves and a grand flower crown whose creation she attributed to one of sisters. Her makeup included pearls, jewels and other sparkly touches.
“My costume is in honor of the love we have for those loved ones we miss so much,” she said.
For an artist who hand makes most of her work, it’s outstanding to see how many women are wearing Jessica Resendiz’ designs.
Resendiz is the mom behind popular Los Angeles brand, RaggedyTiff.
She launched her brand in 2010 and maintained loyal to one concept– that her work would emphasize the beauty of her Mexican Culture.
Customers across the globe have grown to love her work and it’s not uncommon to see her latest products sell out quickly.
The high demand for Raggedytiff products keeps Resendiz close to her sewing machine while juggling motherhood (she has a school-age daughter) and coming up with the next line of designs.
Her latest collection, Amor Eterno, arrived in time for this year’s Dia de los Muertos and offers an assortment of skull-themed products, including head turbans, tassel earrings, skull-shaped clutches and clothing items.
During the Hollywood Forever Cemetery celebration, Resendiz wore a hand-made rose and peony crown with gold bauble glittery accents and lights.
“I stand with pride and no shame of my beautiful culture,” she said. “To dedicate this time a year & all year round to mi familia that has left me, to all that are resting in peace. You’re not forgotten and I carry you in mi Corazón, soul and mind.”
Mommy In Los Angeles® reached out to these moms individually based on their unique approach to highlighting the Dia de Los Muertos cultural tradition. We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to sharing more about their individual stories in the coming months.