Melba Lara: Today is the Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos. It’s a traditional Mexican holiday that honors life and death. This afternoon we’ll hear a sonic ofrenda prepared by Ari Mejia with Rocío Santos from our sister station Vocalo, that includes Chicagoans who are remembering loved ones who still live among us in spirit.
Laura González: No le tenemos miedo a la muerte porque es nuestra compañera. Es nuestra amiga. Está con nosotros todo el tiempo.
Mario Contreras: Hello, my name is Mario Contreras. I’m from Chicagoland area. And my ofrenda is for Brian Patterson. Brian Patterson is a handsome man with salt and pepper hair and dark brown eyes, a little bit of a five o’clock shadow. He’s a teacher and a playwright. His ofrenda has a ruby mosaic skull, and an aluminum skull with four mirrors on it. Thank you for listening. Adios.
Laura González: It’s a holiday to honor our ancestors.
Miguel Blancarte Jr.: My name is Miguel Blancarte Jr. from the Little Village neighborhood. This Día de los Muertos, I’m celebrating and honoring the life of my grandfather: my abuelito Manuel. One of the memories that I remember most about him is he had this violet-colored perfume, very light violet perfume bottle. It was just in this glass, very fancy-looking glass container. He would always tell me, only grab a little bit, because it’s expensive, but he always felt that I should be wearing some, that he should be wearing some. So, he was more of a father figure to me than even my father, and I miss my grandfather dearly.
Laura Gonzalez: Death, in Spanish we say, "la muerte," so it's feminine, but we don't know what it is. When she takes us, the relationships change, but don't end, because we believe that she's with us all the time. And our relationships with our living ancestors just change, but don't end. Day of the Dead is the day that we celebrate that relationship.
Brenda Avila: Hola, mi nombre es Brenda, y soy del barrio de Pilsen. Y me gustaría recordar a mi tía que falleció hace un par de meses. Ella era una mujer muy fuerte que pasó por cosas muy difíciles en su adolescencia, y fue quien se encargó de criar a más de veinte sobrinos con mucho amor y mucha dedicación.
Laura González: It is important that you put on the offering what they like, because you want them to come, right? You’re enchanting them to come and to visit.
Clare Lane: My name is Clare Lane. I live in Albany Park. And every year on Día de los Muertos, I make an altar for my former landlord. His name is Guillermo Garcia. He loved to grill, he loved to take walks, rain or shine, all seasons. And on my altar, I always put some leaves for the fall weather, and tons of candles because he was a very bright light.
Laura González: The flower, right? De cempasúchil. Fruit: a lot of people will put oranges and apples and, you know, all kinds of fruits that are in season for harvest. Food, photos, water, candles, and definitely, definitely bread, the Day of the Dead bread.
Laura Vergara: Hi, I’m Laura Vergara, from Little Village. And I’m dedicating this to my grandmother, Josefa Robles. My grandmother had this light, you remember her laughter. Some of the offerings that I’ll be placing in her honor is this one photograph that I love of her from México. She has a bunch of corn fields around her, and she has this beautiful dress, and it’s a black-and-white photo of her.
Moya Bailey: Hello, this is Moya Bailey. I live in the South Loop neighborhood. And I’m calling to put Stacey Park Milbern on the ofrenda. Stacey Park Milbern was an incredible disabled activist.
Laura González: This belief that the dead come, and they absorb all the nutrition from the food, so that the food, after it gets eaten by the family, is not going to have nutritional value because it’s been absorbed by the dead.
Emily Mason: Hi, my name is Emily Mason and I live in Avondale. I am celebrating the life of Bitsy Brown. I lost Bitsy this past August. She was my grandmother and friend. I will be honoring her with offerings of Coke and Gardetto’s rye crisps. Thank you.
Laura González: Red is the color of life. So you have a lot of red, it means life!
Paola Villegas: This is Paola Villegas. I live in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood. This year, I’m celebrating my padrino Jesús and my abuelita Lela. My padrino Jesús passed away last year, and his loss is still pretty heavy on my mind, but I honor him. He was a painter. He taught me how to paint, he painted houses, he painted apartments, and if I could put an ofrenda for him, it would be a paint roller, a paperboy hat, and some plantitas.
Laura González: The skull represents resting. When we go to our final resting place, eventually we’re going to be skulls, right? For us, they represent life. Seed, flower, fruit, decay, seed, flower, fruit, right? So the skull is part of that cycle.
Jess Quezada: My name is Jess Quezada. I am from the Edgewater neighborhood, and I am celebrating this Día de los Muertos my cat. She died in March, and she was 18-years-old. She gave me so many things that, I think, most humans in my life haven’t. She was there for me through some of the worst times and some of the best times. Her passing on was one of the hardest moments in my life. She was beautiful.
Laura González: I really like to invite people whom are not part of the culture, to dig very, very deep into their culture, into their ancestry. Your culture has a celebration for your ancestors. It’s almost like, because you have this particular time of the year to really dig deep into those emotions, then it’s okay the rest of the year.
Melba Lara: That Dia de Muertos sonic ofrenda was produced by Vocalo’s community and audio storytelling producer Ari Mejia in collaboration with Rocío Santos, host of Domingos en Vocalo. Special thanks to Laura González, La Bruja that you heard from in the ofrenda. The music featured in the piece is titled "El Gran Poder" and was composed by Allá of No Sé Discos from Chicago. This is WBEZ.
WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.