Flowers were blooming on a recent Saturday inside Winchester Dondero Cultural Center as sisters Ana Martinez and Joyce Mayorquin snipped and folded colorful pieces of tissue paper during a workshop. The final step — twisting and attaching a green pipe cleaner to form the stem — brought the paper flowers to life.
The floral creations will decorate an ofrenda, or home altar, commemorating their grandparents on Día de los Muertos, a celebratory day with roots in Latin America that honors those who have passed away. It’s a tradition the sisters are trying to preserve, now with the help of Mayorquin’s 5-year-old son. Her and her husband’s families are from different regions of Mexico.
“In my ofrenda now I’m also incorporating my husband’s family. We blend our traditions, my son is learning both of our cultures, and he’s growing up here,” Mayorquin said. “My parents only spoke Spanish to us and we learned English in school. I got my son to speak some Spanish because of my parents, but he mainly understands English. That’s the struggle going from the first generation to the second generation — you gotta really try to keep it alive.”
Participants worked under yellow, red, orange, blue, pink and purple papel picado banners hanging from the ceilings of the cultural center in Las Vegas, where a free workshop taught attendees about the meaning of ofrendas and how to decorate them for Día de los Muertos.
Nelly Tobón and her husband Eddie Ramos, founders of the Club Migrantes de Uruapan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions, put the workshop together to teach the community, especially younger generations, about the tradition and its importance. Their goal is to create a bridge for Latinos in the U.S. who are geographically separated from family or cultural celebrations across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Handmade decorations, they said, promote authenticity and creativity.
“My main reason is the kids growing up here, we ought to show them our traditions and their roots,” Tobón said. “It’s so important to keep the meaning of our traditions, they’re sacred. And being hands-on and creative makes it more valuable than going to the store and getting something mass-produced.”
This portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on November 1st, 2021, and written by Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez and Jannelle Calderon.