Dia De Los Muertos

Yesterday and today is Day of the Dead, a holiday that many Mexicans celebrate the lives of their departed loved ones. They gather at elaborately decorated graves to sing songs and joyously remembered friends and family members who have moved on to the next step of the life journey.

In homes, families set up altars with photos of the departed, keepsakes, favorite foods and candied skeletons to let folks know that they are still loved and appreciated.

I set up my own table to remember some of the remarkable people who enriched my lives, many of them women.

  • My Aunt Mary, who lived in Hartford for many years, endured family racism, lived clean and sober for over 18 years and made killer lentils with pasta
  • My Aunt Evelyn from the Bronx, who loved the Puerto Rican salsa music of her youth and accepted me for who I was even when I didn’t know what that was.
  • My Great Aunt Mary, with her contagious weezy laugh and amazing tomato sauce
  • Helen Zias, a co-worker in NYC who saw NY as a country of its own and generously shared her favorite spots with me
  • Marcia Bush, an artist, teacher and lesbian who affirmed my dreams no matter how wild.
  • My Uncle Rocky, a true overcomer who ultimately subcumed to HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s when no one really knew what the disease was and how it would change many of our lives
  • Madeline Ortiz, a lesbian mom who died way too young but died with faith and hope

These folks, most of them rebels, outsiders, overcomers, gave me so much. I dare not forget them, and I celebrate their lives and legacy.

This post has 2 Comments

  1. Bob Painter on November 2, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Peterson, we’ve known each other for years now, but I don’t recall knowing that you had mixed-race aunts.

    My Aunt Louise is also mullato. Can you imagine growing up in the 1920’s, -30’s, and -40’s in rural Northeast Mississippi as a woman of color born to a white lady (the best grandmother God ever created, by the way) who never married but had two other children by two other gentlemen besides Louise’s father?

    She didn’t go to school, of course. But I can recall her getting her GED in the early 1970’s when I was a preschooler.

    She was well loved at the garment factory where she worked for twenty years, is a pillar of her local 99.7% United Methodist rural church (yes, she’s the other .3%), and is the aunt who contributed and still contributes the most to my development.

    Anyway, I just thought it was so interesting that you and I have this part of our heritage in common…

  2. Peterson Toscano on November 2, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    Yeah the Toscano clan is pretty ecclectic. My dad was the only one of his five siblings who married a mainland Italian. That means I have cousins who are half Italian and half-
    Puerto Rican
    Sicilian (which my grandfather never considered proper Italian)
    and half Anglo.

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