Page 22


Photos by Daniel Carter/ Figurines from Tesoros Trading Company in downtown Austin AFTERWORD I BY CHRISTINE GRANADOS Dia de los Muertos Lite *Names have been changed to protect the innocent from the living and the dead. 1111. he day after Halloween, as my friends were being dragged to the grave sites of their dead relatives, I would spend my post-trick or treating time nursing a sugar hangover. I began my All Saint’s Day mornings by slipping back into a white fleece bunny costume, tinged beige by the sand that blankets every surface in El Paso. The other 8-year-olds got up early to make the trek out to the Mount Carmel or Concordia cemeteries, where they cleaned and weeded their relatives’ tombstones. As I ate the rest of my treats well into the evening, my friends, with the same orange Chihuahuan Desert sky above them, would fall asleep nuzzled against a tombstone or on top of a bed of plastic marigolds as their elders drank, sang, and reminisced into the night. I learned about this other world not at school or in a library, but in that place where most people learn valuable life lessonsa bar. A friend and I sat in a cushioned booth in one of those restaurant bars with pine molding stained to look expensive and cleaned to a high gloss. A place that looks the same in every American city; only in El Paso, every booth, table, and stool is occupied by a brown face. We talked about the dead over a platter of deep-fried vegetables and mixed drinks. Here along the border, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated as any other holidayheavy on capitalism. My friend, whom I’ll call La Nora, was lamenting the commercialization of her venerated holiday. She was upset to see vendors push their wares at El Paso cemeteries. In the same breath, she admitted stopping at the puestesitos before heading inside the gates to visit her relatives these last couple of years, since she’s been too busy to bake pan de muerto or make other food. On the Day of the Dead, you can walk into Target or Wal Mart and purchase calavera candles and trinkets, even skeleton figurines, or go to the mall, where Lucky Brand Jeans sells long-sleeved shirts with skeleton graphics on the back, or buy raw sugarcane dirt cheap. “I can’t imagine my life without my dead,” La Nora said. “And even though there were times that I wanted Juan Gabriel dead because, well, you know, now when I hear “Amor Eterno,” it always makes me cry. When I don’t get to go the cemetery, I crank up his CD, light candles at home, and buy flowers for my abuela.” Then I asked the question that stopped her monologue, “Yeah, but what really happens there in the cemeteries?” La Nora whispered, “I thought you were Catholic, too,” and looked at me like I had stolen money from her purse. I said, “No, I’m Pentecostal. We don’t honor our dead. We ignore them.” This made her snicker and her gaze was one of mild annoyance. “When our dead are buried, they are permanently separated from the living, so there’s no need for visits,” I added. She gasped. I told her that I could not remember a single time in childhood that I visited the graveside of a dead relative. I did recall that when I asked about my long-gone bisabuela, Isabel, the reply from my grandmother was always the same: “We let the dead bury the dead, OCTOBER 19, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29