artist from Charlotte creates ‘ofrenda on wheels’ to celebrate Day of the Dead | DFA 90.7
Rosalia Torres-Weiner says she remembers her mother waking her up to go to the cemetery in the early hours of November 2 every year when she was a child.
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, has always been the Mexican artist’s favorite holiday.
“It was like my Christmas,” she said. “We weren’t afraid to go to the cemetery at 3 am and just wait for our loved ones. Wait for our muertitos.
During the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, families celebrate and welcome the souls of their “muertitos,” a loving term Torres-Weiner uses to refer to his deceased loved ones.
The tradition dates back to the Aztecs. The belief is that on the day of the dead the boundary between the spirit and the real world dissolves and the souls of the dead reunite with the living. Relatives honor deceased family members by eating, drinking and listening to their favorite music.
Despite his closeness to October 31, Torres-Weiner is making it clear that he is not linked to an American vacation.
“Día de los Muertos has nothing to do with Halloween,” she said. “It’s a Mexican tradition that comes from my ancestors, and it’s a celebration of life.”
For 26 years, Torres-Weiner has lived in Charlotte. Every year on Día de los Muertos, she makes an “ofrenda”, a traditional altar to remember and celebrate deceased family members.
But this year is a little different. Instead of keeping the altar at home, Torres-Weiner has created what she calls an “ofrenda on wheels” that she will park at 6323 Albemarle Rd. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on November 1.
“This time I thought it was very important because we have lost a lot of members of our community,” she said. “I thought we were going to the streets and create this community ofrenda where people can come together through art and culture and celebrate life.”
Torres-Weiner says people can bring photos of loved ones to add to the ofrenda.
She describes herself as an “artivist” and says she also uses the event to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“You don’t want to be on my ofrenda, so take care of yourself and your family,” she said.
This year, she temporarily installed it in her driveway. Two tables covered with colorful tablecloths are set in a T-shape. In addition, Torres-Weiner highlights the elements that represent the four elements that are a staple of any ofrenda.
“The air represented with the ‘papel picado’ (perforated paper), the fire with the candles, the water with the drinks they like, like water or wine, or tequila. And the land that we represent with the flowers, the food, the things we cultivate, ”Torres-Weiner said.
This ofrenda is for his mom. A photo of her sits on colorful crates creating a tower-like structure.
“I’m going to have his favorite food here in this pot,” Torres-Weiner said, lifting the lid of an orange dish. “And then I have water for her and some tequila because my mom enjoyed it. I’m going to have the tamales because she liked it. And then the music, which is an integral part of our ofrenda.
An arch above the ofrenda is covered with orange “cempasúchil” or marigold flowers.
“We think they have a very, very strong scent and that it helps us bring the souls of our loved ones,” she said.
For this year’s ofrenda, Torres-Weiner winks at COVID-19. Skulls wearing masks sit on the tables. On the ground, she created red structures to signify the virus.
“I have new decorations, so I have new things for them that they haven’t seen, maybe last year,” Torres-Weiner said. “For example, I have some representation of COVID. And I said to them, ‘You know, I don’t know if you knew that, but we have COVID.’ “
Torres-Weiner herself is dressed. She wears a floral crown that she will adorn with butterflies, which is another tradition that she says represents the return of her loved ones. Half of his face is painted like a sugar skull.
“When our loved ones come, you want them to recognize you like them – you know, like a skull,” Torres-Weiner said. “And with flowers and colors because this is Mexico.”
Stepping back and looking at the ofrenda, she says she feels excited.
“I just feel like a little kid waiting for my muertitos,” she said. “I await the arrival of my relatives.”
Overall, Torres-Weiner says she can’t wait to share her favorite vacation with Charlotte.
Places to celebrate Día de los Muertos:
Rosalia Weiner-Torres and music by Maria Elena Valdez
6323 chemin Albemarle from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on November 1
Latin American Coalition and Levine Museum of the New South
November 7 from noon to 5 p.m. at Camp North End
300 Camp Road, Charlotte, North Carolina 28206
October 31 – November 2 at the Amor Artis brewery
204 Main Street, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29715