"Altar de Muertos"

By Teresa Ortiz

Corazon de los Cielos, Corazon de la Tierra,
Corazon de las Aguas, Corazon de los Vientos

Orange… pink… yellow… rojo… yosh!
Shinning circles of color cover the heavens competing with the sun
November is the windiest month in the Guatemalan mountains and the round barriletes
take off with extraordinary force,
Peleandose unos con otros por llegar mas rapido,
To reach the souls up above,
To remind the spirits to come down and party with us.

Children run up and down the hill, holding tight to the kite strings,
Looking up to the sky, bumping into each other,
Tripping with rocks and bushes in their race,
Trying not to fall on the gravestones,
Not to step on the food laid out on grassy plains, on tombs.
While their parents are eating,
And drinking and partying and having a merry good time and sharing it all
With the souls
Of those already gone

Come our loved ones, come to celebrate!
With music and canciones,
With posh
Baskets and baskets of bread have been baked for you today
Candles are lit to bring warmth to your dead spirits
Copal smoke reaches the heavens, calling you to come down to play with us

El cementerio en San Antonio Aguascalientes is having una gran fiesta
Crowded with the living and the spirits of the dead.
Every cementerio en Guatemala is sharing with their dead
So many visitors are coming today!

Thousands and thousands of people were assassinated in Guatemala
Four hundred villages disappeared from the Heart of the Earth

Corazon de los Pueblos, Corazon de la Gente,
So we may never, ever forget

In San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico,
Across the border to the north (or west)
There are weekly funeral processions passing in front of my door
They walk slowly, solemnly, dressed in black, behind their dead.

Hay tantos muertos en Chiapas todo el tiempo
Y en Oaxaca, en Veracruz, en Mexico,
En Juarez, en la frontera, en el desierto de Arizona…
En las calles de las ciudades de los Estados Unidos…
Hay tantos muertos every day
So many muertos de la pobreza
So many muertos de la violencia

But come November, people celebrate
The market is busy with shoppers
Buying candles, incense, flor de muerto
Tamales de chipilin, gourds, elotes, calabazas
La plaza esta llena de fiesta, mil colores decorada, con los altares de los niños
People spending three days and three nights con sus muertos en el panteón municipal

Every cementerio in Mexico is sharing with their dead
So many visitors are coming today

In Acteal, a village in Chiapas,
Where forty-five people were massacred while praying, while fasting for peace
The Dia de Muertos celebration takes place outdoors, on a mountaintop
Overlooking the shrine where the martyrs lay.
The procession has arrived with the sacred carved Tortuga for the altar
And the coro is singing “Bienvenidos, Bienvenidos”
Sounding even sweeter when they sing it in Tzotzil.
We all pray to the heavens with our feet during the mass
To remember, to never ever forget

Tcha, ah tcha, ah tcha, ah tcha, ah tcha…

A home altar for our parents and grandparents,
Para los tios, para el primo, para mi hermano,
Para mi adorado hijo Gabriel.
Don’t forget the cigars and chocolates for Papi Mingo
Don’t forget the fancy earrings for mama
Bring the pictures of los abuelitos
No te olvides de poner una veladora con la Virgen
Y la gorra y el cinturon del Che para Gabriel
A la tia le gustan las uvas, don’t forget
Y las calaveritas de azúcar with their names

On the table over here, we lay the offerings
For the ones who passed away.
We start with yosh in the middle
Azul cielo, verde campo,
With a candle, with a cross, with a tree of open branches.
We go round and round and round
Like the circle of life, like the circle of death
Yellow corn to the east, and black corn to the west
White corn to the north, and red corn to the south
We fill the circle with beans and squashes and orchids and cocoa seeds
With salt and oil and refrescos and posh
With golden flowers, zempuazuchil, all around

And then we pray:

Corazon de los Pueblos, Corazon de la Gente
For we have rejected the killings
For we have rejected the violence
We honor our dead

Corazon de la Vida, Corazon de las Almas,
Come to us and celebrate
Que es Dia de Muertos

@Teresa Ortiz

Teresa Ortiz: I am a native of Mexico and an immigrant to Minnesota; a writer, a mother and an educator. I consider myself a very spiritual person who is inspired by life, nature, the earth and the people I love. My poems are personal, descriptive, collective and political; they aim to describe our identity, the land where we live and the lives that have touched my own. I write in Spanish and in English because I want to honor the language of my ancestors and the languages of my children. I am a member of Palabristas Latin@ Spoken Word Collective.