Category Archives: Living Well

Sugar Skulls: El Dia de los Muertos in Mesa

Clickclick. Clickclick. Loud music pumps into the air as stilt-walkers with their faces painted to look like friendly skulls and dressed in traditional Mexican clothing noisily make their way down a pathway filled with adults and children.

Tables with bright plastic table clothes are lined with bracelets made from skull beads, ghoulish masks and wood panels painted to depict scenes from long ago. A little boy eyes the skeleton figures that look like morbid action figures.

Every year the Mesa Arts Center hosts a free El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, festival in late October. This festival is both informative and entertaining, appealing to children and adults.

Diana Hollinshead came to the festival with her granddaughter. She heard about the festival through a friend and thought it sounded like a fun weekend activity.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Hollinshead said. “I didn’t know much about the Day of the Dead before but this has been really interesting.”

Dr. Carmen King de Ramirez, Clinical Assistant Professor of Spanish at ASU, believes that despite Day of the Dead celebrations recently becoming more popular in the United States, many still don’t fully understand the meaning behind the holiday.

“I believe that we have a long way to go in educating the public about the symbolism of the Day of the Dead as a holiday that celebrates death as natural part of the life cycle that should be embraced and not feared,” Ramirez said.

Instead of the Day of the Dead being a dark and scary holiday, Ramirez said that it is a joyful celebration of the earthly lives of loved ones who are now dead.

The roots of this holiday can be found in a mixture of traditions from indigenous Mexican and European cultures.

“Mexican people have fused together the religious aspect of the holiday and folkloric traditions by celebrating the day with festivals, parades, dances and music,” Ramirez said.

Festivals such as the one hosted at the Mesa Arts Center are a way to share the rich cultural traditions of Mexico.

Rhona Jenkins and Denise Peterson volunteered their time to make sure the festival operated smoothly.

“I’ve been doing this for a few years,” Peterson said. “It’s a nice way to help the community.”

Since the festival has had previous success there isn’t difficulty finding people to help, Jenkins said.

“We show up in the morning and are put where there’s need,” Jenkins said.

Some volunteers sit at tables and answer questions, some pick up garbage, and much more.

The festival offers many different attractions, but apparently there is a favorite.

“The sugar skull decorating booth,” Peterson said, and Jenkins nodded and smiled.

It must be true: nearly every group of visitors walking around the festival had at least one decorated sugar skull, held carefully in a paper box, in their possession and along with it new found knowledge about El Dia de los Muertos.

Really, I’m not a stuck up jerk

I promise.

I just don’t like strange men rubbing on me.

Let me explain.

My wonderfully bubbly and cute friend (WBCF) whom I love dearly invited me to a party last night. Her friend was the DJ, there would be a pool and free otter pops. I’m not a huge partier but I wanted to get out after a long week.

We arrived fashionably late to the party and were dismayed to find it on the lame side. Apparently there was a rival party going on somewhere in Mesa that attracted a large crowd. WBCF and I found a wall to sit on and ate an otter pop.

We were not feelin’ it.

Determined to have a good time WBCF and I jumped into the pool to avoid people entreating us to dance. We bobbed around dodging people belly-flopping into the pool and listening to one guy complain about the time he was the bottom half in a chicken fight and the girl on his shoulders had hairy legs.

“Geez it was like sandpaper.”

But I digress.

Fast forward about an hour, the party finally became fun. I was out on the dance floor busting out all of my best white girl moves. I jumped when I should have clapped, I spun when I should have stopped dramatically. Whoever said you just need to “let the music move you” hasn’t met me. You’re right – it was embarrassing to behold, but I’m at that point where I don’t care anymore.

At some point between my ill-timed spinning and third otter pop, I realized my definition and everyone else’s definiton of dancing differs. You see, I thought it was that trainwreck I described above. They thought it was gyrating.

So I laughed and watched from the side of the dance floor trying to look involved yet not inviting. Then Mr. Man jumped behind me and started wiggling and I had to put a stop to it.

I tried to casually distance myself but he noticed and said while pouting,

“What you don’t like me?”

I said something along the lines of “No, but leave me alone” and he moved along.

Seeking refuge by the otter pop cooler I sat down and tried to involve myself in conversation. Five minutes later what appeared to be a conga line, just without any space between people, formed and Mr. Dude at the end said to me,

“Get behind me baby.”

To which my reply was short and sweet,

“No.”

Then I called my boyfriend and asked to be picked up. I was all partied out.

This is where I feel like I need to say, really, I’m not a stuck up jerk. I wasn’t upset with the two guys or angry I had gone to the party, and I didn’t even have a horrible time. I thought it was pretty funny night. I enjoyed the first two hours of it and then a combination of my exhaustion and dislike for the type of dancing caught up to me. While sitting on the sidelines I wasn’t fuming at my friend for bringing me or harboring a grudge against my two acosters. If I was cool I’d say,

“It just wasn’t my scene, man.”

I’d rather be at a baseball game.

Captain Hindsight

At every semester end, usually right before or during my last final, I suddenly receive a burst of wisdom and clarity. I think, “Hey, I should have made a flashcard for possessive adjectives” or “It would have been really helpful if I kept my notes for psychology in pristine order.” At this point in time, my thoughts are valid and helpful…and about two months too late. So what is this? Why this abrupt leap to heightened acumen? …am I turning into Captain Hindsight?

All kidding aside, this South Park skit is scarily relateable. Who doesn’t know the feeling of helplessness and irritation when looking back over wasted or misused time? I surely do. When I really think about it though, why am I so quick to label my time as ‘wasted’ or ‘misused’? Partially, I believe it comes from living in a society that quickly labels things as worthwhile or not. Studying? Always worthwhile. Working? Always worthwhile. Shopping? Always worthwhile. Stopping to give yourself a moment to think? Not happening, just drink some more coffee.

But I digress.

Back to the point of this post, hindsight is always 20/20. The past is always less complicated when looked at through the lens of the current day. Present Me will always laugh at Past Me and say,

“Silly, why didn’t you do it right the first time?” Then Past Me will argue,

“But I did the best that I could. What gives you the right to be arrogant? I did all the work, you’re just sitting back and pointing your finger.”

Life is meant to be lived once, without revisions. It will be full to the brim with forgotten homework assignments, slept through alarms, burnt food, and spelling errors. There will be many “Ohhh no” moments, along with the occasional “Aha!” moment. All we can do is sit back, behold the grand, tangled, yet beautiful mess our course of decisions and actions have produced and say, “Hey, that’s mine…isn’t it wonderful?”