Chicanos en Mictlán: Dia de los Muertos in California. -- San Francisco, CA USA: The Mexican Museum, 2000.
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In this essay, Tere Romo explores the syncretic nature of Chicano spirituality manifested in Chicano art and rooted in the initial encounter between indigenous American cultures and Europe, as well as in the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She focuses on the importance of the Día de los Muertos [Day of the Dead] rituals that were transformed and made public by the San Francisco-based Galería de la Raza, a collective of artists co-directed by Rene Yañez and Ralph Maradiaga. The author explains how in the early 1960s, artist and teacher Yolanda Garfias Woo began teaching altar-making to her students, and she later collaborated with Yañez and Maradiaga in creating an exhibition centered around Día de los Muertos. In 1981, the Galería de la Raza initiated a Day of the Dead-annual procession, which grew so popular that by 1992, the Galería stopped hosting the event because they felt the initial intentions had been lost. Romo closes with a discussion of ofrendas, altars made to honor the dead. She focuses on the evolution of altar-making in the United States, from the traditional personal memorial honoring family members to a contemporary homage to figures like Frida Kahlo, thus transforming altars into art installations with much more aesthetic than spiritual intentions.
Tere Romo is an art historian, writer, and former curator at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, who has written extensively on Chicano/a art and artists. This essay was included in the catalogue for the Chicanos en Mictlán: Dia de los Muertos in California exhibition she curated at the Mexican Museum in 2000, which traced the implementation and development of Day of the Dead as Chicano observances in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The catalogue and exhibition were the first to document and exhibit the history and art of the Dia de los Muertos as re-interpreted by Chicano artists in the U.S. Besides documenting the cultural mestizo [hybrid] nature and political underpinnings of the Chicano observance, Romo asserts that the innovative altars created by Chicano artists for the Galería de la Raza’s annual Day of the Dead transformed private offerings into public art installations and created a uniquely Chicano art form.