Tag Archives: Day of the Dead

Birmingham’s Dia de los Muertos 2016

A look at the skyline of Bare Hands Inc.'s Dia de los Muertos festival in its new venue - Cahaba Brewery this year.

A look at the skyline of Bare Hands Inc.’s Dia de los Muertos festival in its new venue – Cahaba Brewery this year. Murals of Spider Martin and Guillermo Castro are displayed at the start of the altar displays.

I’ve said this before – aside from my beloved Fiesta, Bare Hands Inc.’s Dia de los Muertos festival is one of my favorites of the year.  Both just celebrated year 14 and both will celebrate their 15th – or Quinceanera – next year.  For a festival to make it that long is impressive and this year was even more so for DOTD Alabama.

Early in the year, I heard the festival had been cancelled.  They had lost their long time location due to some changes in the geographic region and had also gone through some leadership changes with the retirement of long time ED Wendy Jarvis and installation of new ED, Robert Hernandez.  But like any organization with volunteers who have a passion for what they do – they persevered and several months into 2016, they decided the show would go on (as they say) and partnered with Cahaba Brewery to move the festival to Avondale.

Roll Call of the dead is a time honored tradition at the festival - as names are called, if family/friends are in attendance, they call out "present" in the audience...

Roll Call of the dead is a time honored tradition at the festival – as names are called, if family/friends are in attendance, they call out “present” in the audience…

And what a move!  The festival drew over 6,000 people this year!  As I was leaving at 8:30 I ran into Robert and Festival Director-Jennifer Gowers and their faces said it all… Jennifer grabbed me and said “where are all these people coming from?!”  We looked at the entrance and people were still streaming in and the festival opened at 4 p.m.  After a group hug, we talked about the incredible turnout and all the hard work it took to pull the event together in a shorter period of time.  Incredible is the only word I could think of at that moment.  Labor of love is the phrase I choose now.

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Day of the Dead is not your ordinary festival, after all.  It is a way for people to honor and celebrate the memory of loved ones who have left us.  The altar installations and tributes are always very moving and I find myself lingering in front of several because of the unique ways in which people are honored and remembered.  I met a young woman from Mexico who described in detail the altar that she and her family pulled together to honor her family.  Every single item on that altar had a unique significance and as she pointed them out to me, along with the stories, I felt myself tearing up.  What a tribute!  What  beautiful stories…and I was so appreciate that she was sharing these with me.  But then again, that is what this festival is all about…sharing your family stories, sharing the stories of your friends and others you love and cherish so that they are always remembered…

A portion of the altar that had so many interesting details recounted to me by a family member.  Very traditional...

A portion of the altar that had so many interesting details recounted to me by a family member. Very traditional…

That’s what Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos means…that’s what Robert, Jennifer and the rest of the board members and volunteers accomplished this past November 2nd.  Viva la Vida!!!

Artist Julianna Jackson poses with her incredible headpiece in the DOD Market.  The creations at her booth were exquisite!

Artist Julianna Jackson poses with her incredible headpiece in the DOD Market. The creations at her booth were exquisite!

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Zuniga-Odom Family Altars

img_2148I started working on my Day of the Dead altars this weekend.  It’s always a special time deciding on the perfect way to display the memories of loved ones who have left us.  Then I head to the basement to pull out my DOD boxes which takes a bit more time these days with all the new items I’ve added to my collection over the years!  But I do love going through the boxes and seeing what will work to enhance the beauty of the altars and memories.

This year, I made just a few tweaks to my altars.  I picked up some very colorful papel picado tin buckets at Target in  the “One Spot” section of the store last year and thought they would be the perfect addition to my altars.  The turquoise, yellow and orange colors go perfectly with the other décor and in particular, the marigolds that I use to adorn all the altars.  I’ve added tea light candles to each bucket and I know the light reflecting through the bucket will be beautiful tomorrow night…

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead. The blue bottle was hand painted by my daughter Emily – the other side sports a sugar skull. The photo on the bottom is of my dad and his niece Christie.

Mariachi hats were another addition this year.  I found to child mariachi hats at the Alabama Thrift store earlier this year.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  These hats are not cheap and they are in excellent condition.  I knew I would use them for something and when I started pulling my altars together, they just worked.  In addition, my mother gave me three miniature mariachi hats for my birthday in February, so those were also added.   One day I hope to add a full size mariachi hat to my altar.  I can already envision what it will look like!

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures.  Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar...

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures. Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar…

Finally, while I was in At Home a few weeks ago, I spotted a terra-cotta sugar skull as I was about to leave the store.  So many of the DOD items you see these days are a little too mass-produced looking.  I guess that’s why you can find them everywhere.  But this one was different…and so if there was one, there had to be another!  So I set out to search the store for one and I spotted it – out of sight in the Halloween section.  Perfect!  They look great on my dining room table!

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago...

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago…

As for photographs of loved ones who have passed…I remember a scene from the movie “Book of Life” about remembering all your ancestors to keep their memory alive.  As I’ve been getting photos organized this year, I came across several from my mother’s side – the Weavers and the Vansants.  My great-great-grandfather Levi Weaver is pictured in one photo with his young wife Bessie Vansant Weaver along with his grown children and a few of their own.  With the photo of Mary and Rufus Vansant I’m trying to recall the relationship.  I think they were my great-great-grandmother’s parents and I know I have this written down somewhere but I have several boxes of photos and family tree information that I need to go through and sort and identify.  My Aunt Gail gave me this photo many years ago and it has always spoken to me because of their clothing and where they are sitting.  They look like sharecroppers to me but that’s just my impression so I’m not sure.  And I imagine that life wasn’t very easy for them either.  These are additions to my altar this year…

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar...these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar…these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Tomorrow night, I will light the candles and photograph the glow of the altars.  Then I will sit in my living room and reflect on the lives represented on these altars and give thanks for each and every life.

Viva la vida!

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Day of the Dead Décor – It’s Everywhere!

img_1320-1Every fall I look forward to discovering new Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos items to add to my growing collection.  This year it seems stores had their items out even earlier than usual.

The first place I always hit is World Market.  Usually, they have quite a huge spread of items but this year the collection wasn’t as large.  Mind you, this is always my “go-to” place for DOD items so in fairness, it could be that I’ve collected most of their items already!  At any rate, over the course of 3 visits, I picked up some cute things including a Mariachi skeleton pillow, sugar skull measuring cups, sugar skull measuring spoons, 2 sugar skull nutcrackers and two ornaments – one sugar skull and one hot sauce bottle!  I haven’t checked other stores in my area to see if they have a more robust collection in their stores…there is still time and I may do that, but I really do love the things I’ve picked up so far.

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Sugar skull measuring spoons and measuring “skulls” from World Market.

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Mariachi pillow from World Market! So cute!

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img_1317 img_1316 img_1315Target is another place to pick up cute DOD items.  This year, their selection was also a little limited.  Again, I think I bought everything they had last year, including a door wreath which will go up on my front door the last weekend in October.  I bought a sugar skull vinyl tablecloth along with a DOD banner and a sugar skull dog statue.  The tablecloth reminds me of the beautiful colorful Mexican vinyl tablecloths that my cousins always use in their decorating.  On another trip, I found a sugar skull cup and a kit to make sugar skull pumpkins.  I bought two pumpkins over the weekend for Halloween decorating so I’ll convert those using the kits this weekend.

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img_1313 img_1312Finally, last week I was in Michaels and saw an adorable DOD door wreath.  I considered buying it as I walked through the store and then I turned down an aisle and found an entire display of DOD items!  It would have been easy to go nuts and add everything to my cart but I took a deep breath and selected just a few things – a DOD “coffin”, 6 small sugar skull plates and a Catrina statue – an iconic DOD item that is seen every year at the local DOD Festival in downtown Birmingham!

Honestly…it seems as though you can find DOD and Sugar Skull items all over the place these days.  I always look forward to pulling out all my stored items as I prepare to make my annual altars and decorate my house.  I think this year I’ll need to add another storage container for all my new items!

Do you have any favorite DOD items?  If so, please share them with me.  I would love to see them and know what you do to celebrate Day of the Dead!

Frida and Mary

First DOD pillow purchase from Earthbound Trading Company at Brookwood Mall. Frida Kahlo surrounded by sugar skulls.

First DOD pillow purchase from Earthbound Trading Company at Brookwood Mall. Frida Kahlo surrounded by sugar skulls.

Right before Day of the Dead (DOD), I was at Brookwood Mall and wandered into Earthbound Trading Company.  There was a huge display of DOD items and I loved going through and checking everything out.  Interestingly, the one item I came home with that day was a pillow.  That’s right…a pillow!

There was a large box in front of the display with an assortment of DOD pillows.  Of course, there was requisite sugar skull pillows in an assortment of colors, but the ones that got my attention had the images of Frida Kahlo and the Virgin Mary on them.  It took me quite a while to decide which one I wanted – mind you – they weren’t on sale.  Since it WAS close to DOD, I decided on the Frida pillow surrounded by several sugar skull characters.  When I got to the checkout, I remembered I had a discount coupon of 30% via email.  YAY!  I love a bargain and although I was about to pay full price for this pillow, the 30% off really made it sweeter!

A week after DOD, I was once again at Brookwood running errands when I ducked into Earthbound to see if they had any DOD items on sale.  Low and behold…they had ALL the pillows deeply discounted – among other things!  I’m talking 65% OFF!  Woowhoo!!!  So, I came home with TWO more pillows that day!  One has the image of the Virgin Mary on it and the other is Miss Frida again.

Virgin Mary pillow from Earthbound Trading Co.

Virgin Mary pillow from Earthbound Trading Co.

When I got home, I put them on the wooden bench in our foyer…it was the perfect place and I think they’ve found a permanent home.  That is…until Christmas, when they take a short hiatus for my Feliz Navidad pillows!

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Another Frida Kahlo pillow – this was in square shape – the others are all rectangular.

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I think all three of these pillows have found their forever home on my Mexican bench in my foyer…what do you think?

Sojourns Fair Trade Store

IMG_0007This afternoon I stopped by Sojourns Fair Trade Store in downtown Birmingham.  This place is such a treasure!  I mean,  I seriously never leave this store without dropping a chunk of change but I just can’t resist all the beautiful things!  From jewelry and clothing to lovely pieces of art from all over the world…if you are looking for unique gifts, this is the place!

When I arrived, Melissa Kendrick, my friend and owner, was busy getting new clothing merchandise ready to display for sale.  She greeted me with a big hug and began telling me about the clothing and a pop-up shop she is preparing to open in Montgomery.  I still remember the first time I met Melissa.  It was at her first location just down the street from her current location – 2017 Third Avenue North.  I went in at the recommendation of two friends who worked nearby and immediately fell in love with the place!  I remember having the nicest conversation with Melissa and thinking how wonderful to have a store like this in Birmingham!

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Sojourns was the first wholly fair trade store in Alabama.  They offer unique items produced under fair trade standards from 57 countries.  For more about what fair trade is, visit the Fair Trade Federation website.  A sign in the store shares that fair trade wages are designed to provide fair compensation based on the true cost of production and are not based on any developed world wage standards.  Fair wages are determined by a number of factors including the amount of time, skill and effort involved in production, living wages where products are made, the purchasing power in a community or area and other costs of living in the local context.

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Over the years I’ve purchased quite a number of items for my home and as gifts.  A few years ago, I took my daughters with me and I was oohing and aahing over a wooden salad bowl set and they surprised me with it for Christmas!  I was recently in the store with my mother and bought quite a few Day of the Dead items to add to my growing collection.  I have a collection nativity retablos too.  Today I was looking for a few more nativities and there were quite a few from all over the world.  It was hard to decide!

One of the Day of the Dead items I bought recently at Sojourns.

One of the Day of the Dead items I bought recently at Sojourns.

Melissa told me today that she wants to maintain a Day of the Dead section in her store as well as a Christmas section too.  She is expecting quite a few large shipments just in time for Christmas.  If you are looking for something different and something that you can feel good about purchasing, stop by Sojourns and take a look around.  I guarantee that you won’t leave the store without an item or two!  Here are a few photos of the store from my recent visits in a slide show.  Seriously…go visit Melissa at Sojourns soon!

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A Look Back at Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Every year I look forward to Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival.  This was year 13 for the festival and while it was a rainy day, the rain stopped right before the event was set to start and people made their way downtown.  As I’ve always said, DOD is a photographer’s mecca!  For a week after the event, it’s fun to see all the social media posts and photos of everyone dressed out in sugar skulls.  Photographers J. C. Bravo and Larry O.Gay are always on hand and capture incredible shots of the people .  In my opinion, their photos are breathtaking and really showcase the beauty of Day of the Dead.  Check J.C. and Larry out on Facebook when you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean…

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

At one point early in the evening, Larry grabbed my camera and took a photo of me with my husband, and my friend Theresa Deleon and her daughter.  So I now have an “original” Larry Gay photo on my very own camera!  Thanks Larry!

Meanwhile, instead of talking about the event, I’ll just let my own photos tell the story…

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The Zuniga-Odom Family Altar for Dia de los Muertos – 2015

Zuniga-Odom altar 2015

Zuniga-Odom altar 2015

My altars this year were very similar to last year. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to change things up a bit but I didn’t plan very well. So, I’ll hold those ideas until next year…

Meanwhile, I did add more to my dining room table altar! I always use a pair of two-tiered plate stands for different events and gatherings at my house. Since I bought the cute male and female sugar skulls at Target, I used those on the top place and scattered marigolds on the bottom plate. It really made the table explode in color!

Something new on my altar/table this year is the two tiered stand - a great place to put my new Sugar Skull in top hat decoration (from Target) - just add marigolds!

Something new on my altar/table this year is the two tiered stand – a great place to put my new Sugar Skull in top hat decoration (from Target) – just add marigolds!

I have to admit, it’s hard to take everything down. I’ll be doing that this weekend but the candles – the battery operated flicker kind – make the dining room and living room so beautiful at night.

Until next year…Feliz Día de los Muertos!

One of my favorite photos with my dad...

One of my favorite photos with my dad…

The Zuniga siblings  my grandfather (far right) Apolonio Guerrero (Polo)and his siblings.

The Zuniga siblings my grandfather (far right) Apolonio Guerrero (Polo)and his siblings.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, in his T-bird.  Photo taken in Bangkok, Thailand.  His handkerchief, rosary and Air Force pin.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, in his T-bird. Photo taken in Bangkok, Thailand. His handkerchief, rosary and Air Force pin.

My dad's Leica camera...next to a tequila shot set I bough in Mexico many years ago.

My dad’s Leica camera…next to a tequila shot set I bough in Mexico many years ago.

Zuniga family crest on a cloth bag - these were given out at a recent Zuniga family reunion.

Zuniga family crest on a cloth bag – these were given out at a recent Zuniga family reunion.

My coffee table altar with pictures of my mother's family - her parents, sister, grandparents...  My pup, Lucy helped by watching.

My coffee table altar with pictures of my mother’s family – her parents, sister, grandparents… My pup, Lucy helped by watching.

A favorite photo of my grandparents and aunt - Onnie and Louise Stone and Gail Stone Thomas.

A favorite photo of my grandparents and aunt – Onnie and Louise Stone and Gail Stone Thomas.

Zuniga family photos - my dad, his siblings and parents (front photo) and my grandparents Zuniga on their wedding day (photo on left).

Zuniga family photos – my dad, his siblings and parents (front photo) and my grandparents Zuniga on their wedding day (photo on left).

Zuniga-Odom altar at night

Zuniga-Odom altar at night

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015