Nov 1, 2015

Dia de Muertos

Last year Saori and I made dia de muertos masks, but we never finished them. They sat in various corners of our apartment until a month ago when we made a concerted push to finish them. I ended up going all out on my oversized mask, covering it with different paint, white pen drawings, adhesive silver foil, newspaper cutouts, and self adhesive tiny glitter mosaic squares.

Saori finished her skull in florescent pink with just white pen linework, highlighting the form of the smoking crossed pistols and crosses. It's actually really great.

We bought tickets to a Dia de los Muertos event at Wagenhallen, a converted industrial space used for concerts, hipster flea markets, etc. I went in with low expectations, considering that Germans approach most other cultures like college students today approach the 70's: as pastiche themes to be appropriated.

The event itself is organized by Germans, the bands are all German, and only some of the merchandise sellers and the taco shop guys were Mexican. It was really a Dia de Muertos themed party. The fact that the event poster and the band both reference Speedy Gonzales, considered by many now to be a racist stereotype, is a good tip-off.

Anyway, I'm not Mexican; I'm not even Catholic, so I can't really point fingers and complain that they're not appropriating the holiday the RIGHT way. Plus the original event was a constructed hybrid of native American and Spanish holidays. Actually, the older I get, the more I find authenticity is overrated. Culture exists to enrich our lives, not the other way around. If it works for you, go with it.

So we decorated our masks, and set up a Dia de Muertos altar with candles, squash, flowers, photos, and a few personnel effects and favorite things from people we have loved and lost. Green Hokkaido pumpkin for Saori's grandfather, the rings of my grandfather, the pocket watch of my great grandfather, grandma Betty's tennis magnet, and also for her, oranges and rum.

We dressed up to go out in basically black club attire, and also our giant decorated skulls. Got lots of attention going down the street and riding the bus.

We found Rafa outside the main event, in a silver Luchador mask, working the food booth. He was dying when he saw us. Everyone thought or masks were great. Sadly, they had already sold out of tinga, but we got some chicken mole tacos. The mole I make is better, but they did have hot fresh corn tortillas which are such a missed delight.

There were probably about 500 people there that night. The vast majority of the other guests had the same skull face paint with blacked out eyes and painted teeth. Saori and I in our skulls cleared a path in front of as people moved out of way and turned in our direction. It was really fun to be a kind of show stopper.

The event itself was a bit of a letdown, even with low expectations. The band was not good. They did have mezcal at the bar, but they had a stupid thematic apparatus where you have to pump air into the bottle and turn a little tap. If it was a private party at house, it would have been cool. At a concert bar, it just looked irritating to the harried bartenders. There were some nice imported and exorbitantly priced Mexican crafts for sale, but if anything it was a reminder of how far I was physically as well as metaphorically from Mexico. It's surreal to see fake saguaro cacti used to decorate and support a theme, having grown up around them.

It was fun enough but we left after the Mexican themed striptease (featuring "Violetta Poison") since we were both really tired and a bit deafened by the music.

Halloween night, riding public transportation in a city where drinking nearly everywhere is legal, past 1 AM is also an unforgettable experience. Lots of zombies this year.
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