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Dia de Los Muertos Altar for Lencho and Ester Flores

9 Nov

I had the opportunity to participate in the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit at Palm Springs Art museum again. This year, it was at their beautiful new satellite location in Palm Desert.

The altar was in honor of my grandparents. It was a family effort, con mucho amor!

Florencio “Lencho” Moreno Flores (1924-2004)

Maria Ester Ochoa Flores (1928-1998)

They were both born and raised in La Sara, Texas. They were married on August 6, 1947. They enjoyed over 50 years together.

Long-time residents of Indio,CA, they settled in the Coachella Valley in the early 50’s.

Rancho Las Flores, Thermal, CA 1980. That’s me as a baby.

Lencho was employed in farm labor and agriculture from an early age. He was known for his friendly warm smile, generous hospitality, compassionate heart and optimistic outlook. He was a supporter of the labor union movement in the 1960’s and of Cesar Chavez. He was very patriotic and extremely proud of his sons and daughter who served in the military. Above all, he was a spiritual man and a devout Catholic; serving his church and all the community through prayers and songs.

Making buñelos, early 1990’s

Ester was a farm laborer as well. Later, she became a full-time homemaker and mother. She only had a third-grade education and knew very little English, but she was blessed with a sharp mind and an uncanny ability to stretch a dollar a long way. She managed the household expenses and the family savings with an iron fist; yet she generously always had a place in their home for extended family and traveling friends to stay.

She was a devout Catholic and very spiritual as well. Privately, she practiced traditional healings of the indigenous people of north Mexico & Texas, and was respected for her teas and powerful prayers. It’s no accident that two of their daughters are nurses and another daughter and son are mental health professionals.

Lencho and Ester had 6 children, 15 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. We love and miss them!

My dad and his dad. Thermal, CA. 1979

Making the Altar…

Me and my Mom, installation day.

Fully assembled & lit for the evening’s festivities.

About the altar:

  • Photos of their farming days create a path to the steps, representing the transition from their earthly life of hard work and toil in the sun to a celebration of their transcendence to Heaven, where they are happy souls reunited and free.
  • Ester loved roses and the color pink. After their passing, the family remodeled their home. Twice the house was painted beige and twice the paint mysteriously dried pink.

Their wedding picture in the background…

  • The lovingly created central figures (above) were made by their son, my tio, Florencio ‘Jayar’ Flores.

  • The molcajete and comal, (cooking instruments), were Ester’s. Her fantastic Tex-Mex cooking is dearly missed. The plastic fruit bowl and doilies were hers as well.

  • I designed and cut the papel picado with lyrics from one of Lencho’s favorite songs, De Colores.

  • The paper flowers were made by their great-granddaughter, my daughter, Bella, age 13.
  • The wooden plaque, “La Familia Flores”, hung over their front door. It now hangs at my parents’ home.

Final daytime view.

The saddest part is always taking the altar down. All the physical pieces are put away and we are again left with the memory of our loved ones. I cheered myself up with the knowledge that my daughter now knows her abuela’s face and got to hear many stories of her life over the course of working on this project. Her memory lives on!

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Amor for Zorro, Geocaching and the Long Beach Reads One Book Program

1 Mar

So begins another adventure, as adventures often do, with a friendly email and bit of luck…

I was contacted by the organizer for the Geocaching Challenge in this year’s Long Beach Reads One Book Program held by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. I get lots of requests for donations to charity and community events, but this message was crazy-friendly and she signed it “Di (Di pronounced in Spanish, not English – Dee, not Die)”.

A woman after my own heart. 

In her words: “Each year they host an event called “Long Beach Reads One Book” (now in its eleventh year). A book is chosen by a committee, and then for roughly a week in March, several activities are scheduled, such as lectures/presentations/discussions, demonstrations, nature walks, etc, etc, etc. In short, this year’s book is Zorro by Isabel Allende…. If you have read the book, then you know that the story has several themes, among them mission life during the early 1800s, rancho life, life in early Los Angeles, relations between the Spanish and the Native Americans in the region, pirates, the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish history/end of the Inquisition, secret societies, etc.”

Awesome. I love Isabel Allende, my mama is a retired librarian, and I’ve listened to the entire unabridged Zorro audiobook, (loved it) a few years ago! So, other than that, the next thing that caught my eye: geocaching. What is that?

Again, in Di’s words: “This year, in addition to the “traditional” types of activities and events, the Foundation is adding GEOCACHING to its lineup, and that’s where I come in. If you have never heard of geocaching, please click here and watch 8 minutes worth of video If you don’t have eight minutes, hopefully you have at least six, in which case watch the first and third videos. My husband and I have been charged with creating the “Geocaching Extravaganza” for this event. In all, we plan to hide anywhere from six to ten caches across the city, to be found by community members, young and old, during the month of March.” 

And so it was that I came to meet Di and I talked myself into cutting over 100 mini papel picado flags for a geocache in a Long Beach Public Library as “loot” for fellow book lovers.

I also scored a couple of tickets for my me & my mama to go see Isabel Allende speak later this month!

These are the flags I made for the Zorro Geocaching challenge.

We settled on a romantic design for the flags as they represent the festive spirit of the residents of El Pueblo de Los Angeles (as depicted in the book), and specifically the marriage of Don Alejandro and Regina (parents of Diego/Zorro). Click here for the Foundation’s webpage for the One Book Geocaching Challenge.

But, when it came down to it, I still wasn’t sure what this whole geocaching business actually was. At Di’s urging, Fernando & I went to the official Geocaching website, signed up for a free membership and did a search for any cache near our home address. We were floored when we saw that the nearest one was less thank 2 blocks away! We excitedly fumbled for our smartphones, found a GPS-enabled geocaching app, and downloaded the free trial. 5 minutes later, we were walking out the front door with our son, Elias, in tow.

Our first geocache! It was a "nano" magnetic, bullet-sized canister that unscrewed to open.

The logbook inside the cache was a strip of paper that unrolled to reveal 34 signatures from previous geocachers.

It takes a special kind of nerd to enjoy the thrill of the hunt for nothing more than bragging rights and a higher tally next to your Geocaching profile name. Turns out, I am one. And, even better, I married one. We are hooked. Elias, however, is skeptical because he’d been secretly hoping for buried treasure.

We are looking forward to finding more caches. It’s a fun and free activity for families (a rare thing these days). Plus, you get to work together as a team. It was Elias who actually found the cache- we were stumped!

One last thing: there is a Geocaching 101 workshop this weekend being held at the library where my flags are hidden. If you are near Long Beach, I urge you to give it a try and please let me know how it goes!

La Chingona

14 Dec

Today, I will greet the sun as my relative
and give the morning my full attention.

I will say “I love you” into the mirror
and draw my eyeliner extra straight.

I will not call myself fat
because everything in my closet will look good on me.

I will rock my huge Latina hips
like the blessing they are.

Watch out!
I might even wear heels.

Today, I will not hand out one unnecessary apology.
Today, I will be Chingona!

-Yreina Flores Ortiz

I’ve been experimenting with making small, framed papercut illustrations. It’s fun exploring other possibilities with thicker paper, (sturdier than tissue paper). Also, it is  a totally different thing to draw for a framed design than one that needs to hang and blow about in a breeze. Papel picado needs more connecting pieces in the design. Smaller details don’t show up when the flags are up high, but in a frame, the viewer is able to get up close.

I have also placed a restriction on myself to use only the art supplies I already have. I had a teacher once who used to encourage us to stick with one medium/concept and ‘discover the universe in its limitations’. That one piece of advice has spawned many a late-night resourceful triumph. Besides, Lord knows, I have plenty of materials to experiment with already. So, here I go into papercut illustrations. Which is where I started before I learned how to make papel picado anyway!

This piece is available for purchase here here.

Altar for Dave Hernandez at the Palm Springs Art Museum

23 Oct

My grandfather, David Hernandez passed away this year in March. So, when I had an opportunity to make an altar for the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Dia de Los Muertos exhibition, I knew it would be for him.

Grandpa making the (back then) World's Longest Tamale in his custom-built steamer.

 

More after the click-through…

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