The Mission District of San Francisco was my home for 25 years. During that time, I was part of the Latinx cultural art scene. One of my contributions on a yearly basis, was to create altares for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Mission Cultural Center, SOMArts and other exhibitions.
Los Hijos del Maiz is dedicated to René Yañez, the late curator of SOMArts. Using the Día de los Muertos concept, this piece illustrates the traditions, achievements, and contributions of Latinx people to the Mission District and society at large. The Día de los Muertos concept speaks of our ancestors, while the Graduate speaks of the Future, bridging millennia of history.
In 1972, René Yañez, founder of the Galería de la Raza in San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood, initiated the first recorded Día de los Muertos celebrations in California. He organized the first public exhibition of "altares". Rene was instrumental in establishing Día de los Muertos as an important cultural celebration in San Francisco. These celebrations were marked by increasingly large exhibitions, ceremonies, processions, and school-based activities. This transformed the tradition into the urban artistic phenomenon and community-building tradition that it is today.
The main symbols within this piece are:
Papel Picado is a traditional Mexican artform that goes back to pre-Colombian times. Aztec people first chiseled spirit figures into bark, which later became the art form now known as Papel Picado. It has become popular due to the rising awareness of Día de los Muertos.
Día de los Muertos Skeleton
The skeleton represents ancestors and ancestral knowledge. It also reminds us that we all look the same under our skin and come from and will return to the same place.
Flowers are a symbol of the impermanence and fragility of life and have many uses in Day of the Dead celebrations.
The "Mexican Eagle"
Representative of the Latinx working class in the US and the struggles that they have had to overcome.
The sacred heart is one of many spiritual charms called Milagros. The sacred heart stands for altruism within the community, especially the connection with groups and organizations that advocated for the Latinx community in various ways.
Maize, or corn, has had major importance in all the Americas since time immemorial, not only as a staple in their diet but also representative of the Mother Goddess principle. One of the most well-known syncretizations of Indigenous and Christian cultures is The Lady of Guadalupe who merged with the Mexican Corn Goddess.
The Hummingbird represents immigration. The hummingbird species pictured spend winters in Central America (including Mexico) & summers in North America, therefore, representing those that come to the US for a better life and get deported, but return. They do this for basic survival, just like the Hummingbird.
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