Yard Arteology: The study of neighbors through their lawn decoration... Halloween and Day of the Dead may be neighbors on the calendar, but the two holidays are as different as the United States and Mexico. Where the suggestive costumes and binge-eating rituals of Halloween celebrate American psychosis and obesity, the family altars and sugar-coated offerings celebrate Mexican reverence and regret.
Day of the Dead observations are split over the course of two days. Typically, November 2 honors adults, and their offerings may tend more toward the mocking and humorous. However, November 1 is the day to honor children (Day of the Innocents) and the observations are much more visceral.
This year marks the sixteenth Anniversary of the first Day of the Dead observance at the community garden named for Troy Chavez, a sixteen-year-old boy who was killed in gangland crossfire. This memorial also commemorates the lives of 26 other children who were victims of violence. Every element displayed about the altar pictured above is a declaration of the depth of love and the dearness of life...
At the center of the picture above, the altar of the dead sits at the base of a stone carving of Quetzalkoatl, the gentle Aztec spirit who abhorred violence and encouraged all to protect the young. Papel picado banners in the symbolic colors of purity (blue), intensity (red), and pain (purple) hang from two strings overhead. A third string contains photographs and poems that painfully describe the lost opportunities of death and the things taken for granted in life.
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Hopefully, the sentiments on these signs can be shared with the lost souls who are attracted to the items displayed on the altar, as seen in the photo detail below...
Skulls made of sugar and flowers of the dead are often used to lure lost souls to their Day of the Dead altars. In the photograph above, a painted model of a butterfly is also included. The "Papalotl" is a common visual theme of this particular community garden. It symbolizes the warriors who have sacrificed their needs for the sake of others, and return to earth in the form of a butterfly to spread joy and beauty among the living. All are welcome to visit here.
More from the Kenny Be/Comics archive: "Dan Maes 'amaesing' corn maze campaign attraction: Kenny Be's Fotochop Friday."