Did I ever tell you I was obsessed with Mexican culture, food and art? I swore I was going to graduate from college, head down to Mexico, become a famous artist and totally hang out with all the guys from Jaguares. I think the obsession started with Jellybean’s version of The Mexican, a trip to MoMA to see Frida Kahlo’s work and the Caliente Cab Co in the village. Yes, I had a very pop culture version of all things Mexican looming in my head. Prior to leaving New York for Los Angeles in 2005, I had never even heard of Día de los Muertos nor did I ever know what it was like to take a bite of a warm, homeade tortilla fresh from the comal. Fast forward a few years – and I find myself indulging in queso fundido con chicharron at Zapien’s – The Salsa Grill with one of the best Mexican food bloggers Presley’s Pantry (and now first Latina food contributor for Babble) and basking in the sensorial glory that is Self Help Graphics & Art at their 39th annual Día de los Muertos event. I know. I still haven’t made it to Mexico, unless you count a cruise to Baja (which does not count, folks) and I’m not a famous artist. But I did get to meet El Vampiro. That counts, right?
As my son and I admired the beautiful altars at Self Help, I thought about my grandmother and the life she lived. Last night, I let go (even if for one day) all of the sadness I still feel when I think of her passing. Instead, I celebrated her for the woman that she was – and all that she taught me by example. Interesting how the idea of death in American culture is something to be feared, and with one switch of perception death became a celebration of life filled with color and warm memories.