El Amor

Walking With The Dead On Día de Los Muertos

On Día de los Muertos, we respect and honor the dead. But it’s a hard day for me to celebrate in the Bay Area, when the dead and soon to be dead walk around me. When I see ofrendas for Alex Nieto, he reminds me of my uncle, with his 49ers jersey and his belief: I grew up here, I belong here, no one can take that away from me. Or, when I see that after 46 years, Galería De La Raza will be evicted as if anyone has the right to evict culture, evict spirit, evict the people who built La Mission. Still, now when I see parts of my life, culture, and home taken from me and the community I grew up in I often find myself wondering what is there to celebrate. Is Día de los Muertos for the living, or a prayer to take us away from the land of the walking dead?

These days, I try to let go of what Día de los Muertos has come to mean in the United States. Instead, I hold onto what it means in Mexico. It’s a rebirth, and a day to remember those who we will always carry with us.

The week my abuela was taken away from us, she visited us twice.

My tía and I were two ghosts watching Pedro Almodovar’s film, “Habla Con Ella,” (Talk to Her) in my tia’s bed. We were wrapped like two swaddled babies in perfectly crisp linen sheets, neatly stacked upon each other like layers of a pastel de tres leches, and topped with an intricate, multi colored quilt. It smelled just like my abuela’s bed; of detergent, talcum powder, and lily of the valley. A perfume you could never bottle.

In the film we were watching two lovers realize it’s the end of their relationship. But, before they breakup beneath a veranda under the Spanish sky, the Brazilian singer and guitarist Caetano Veloso serenades them:

Dicen que por las noches                         

No mas se le iba en puro llorar               

Dicen que no comía…

My aunt began mouthing the words, “No mas se le iba en puro tomar.” And as I looked at her, I could see her as a little girl, singing the words of a song her mother taught her. “This was your abuela’s favorite song,” she told me.

“Cucurrucucu Paloma.”

When I get visions of my grandmother, she comes to me like a white dove. When you see a white dove — it’s as if it clears the sky. As if its wings are backlit by a cloudless cielo. Turtle doves are often associated with romance. For me, I think of magic and my abuela. I think of her green thumb, and the jasmine blossoms, and the lemon tree that sprung from it. That lemon tree gave us fruit all year round. These are the things I dreamed of when Paloma Blanca, or white dove, first visited my family.

Later, I sat with my mama and tía at La Taqueria, one of my abuela’s favorite spots in the Mission. As we ate our tacos, yet another one of my abuela’s favorite songs came on the jukebox. My mama and tia burst into tears and ran out of the taqueria, tacos uneaten. I followed them out onto that Mission street that felt like a skeleton of what it was in my youth.

Instead of paleterias, we got tasting menus. Instead of affordable housing, we got luxury condos. Instead of life, we got death.

“Cucurrucucu Paloma” is a song about a husband mourning his wife leaving him.

He spends his nights looking for her and crying in the home they once shared together. After his death, he is reborn as a dove that coos every morning, searching for her.

That is quite literally the story. But that story is not real to me. So, I have given the song a different meaning.

In my reinterpretation, the song is about a husband who never appreciated his wife. He spends his nights in the cantina and out with other women. One night, she dies of a broken heart. And her spirit haunts him in the form of a dove. That dove visits him every morning and sings for him. He sings back to her, asking her for forgiveness, and begging to join her. Instead, she pays her daily visits and her songs sound more like cries.

We are all haunted by voices no one else can hear.

Sometimes the soul of a person appears to you.

Sometimes it’s her presence you feel, cooking alongside you. Other times, it’s in a dream.

For me and my family, my abuela often appeared as an animal. My tía had the world’s sweetest, most capricciosa chihuahua, Lolita. She was a cloud of thin white fur, with two light brown patches, and eyes the color of unrefined cane sugar, piloncillo. Whenever we made eye-contact, she’d wriggle towards me, and slide onto my shoulder, her head pressed against my heart.

I was able to make little cries, chiadas, that sounded like puppy cries. I would whimper as loudly as I could, and Lolita would join me, and she would tell me her penas, her worries. My whole family would laugh as I hugged Lola and the two of us told each other secrets no one else understood.

I loved that little dog and always thought: what a gift to have my favorite creature visit me twice in one lifetime. What a gift to understand her cries.

“Cucurrucucu Paloma” was originally written by the Mexican songwriter Tomás Méndez for the ranchera singer, Lola Beltrán in the 1950s.

Photo provided by Michelle Threadgould

It is a classic mariachi song covered by everyone from Joan Baez to the Chilean jazz singer, Camila Meza.

But no one quite owns the song like Caetano. In 2014, I saw him perform for the first time at the Hollywood Bowl. He was 71, with the same brushed-back, all white hair of my abuela, and the same seventies style glasses. And yet, even in his seventies, he possessed the energy of David Byrne, who dances, improvises, and keeps his performers on their toes as he makes it clear: this stage is mine.

Juran que el mismo cielo

Se estremecía al oír su llanto

Cómo sufrió por ella

Y hasta en su muerte la fue llamando

Like the character in “Cucurrucucu Paloma,” waiting for their dove, we all leaned in to hear his song. But in this canto of memory and longing, I didn’t feel the suffering. Instead, a song that had once helped me to process lost worlds had new meaning. It was a tribute, a calling in of the ancestors, and I could feel her presence there in the open amphitheater. As Caetano danced onstage, I knew that she was quietly shuffling next to me, and would be for as long as I could appreciate her song.

This year, for Día de los Muertos, I will light a Saint Judas candle for my abuela.

Photo provided by Michelle Threadgould

I will play “Cucurrucucu Paloma,” and Selena, and Nirvana Unplugged. My abuela used to call Kurt Cobain a living Jesus, and sometimes I think faith is inherited, because I still believe her.

On her ofrenda, filled with marigolds and sugar skulls, I will write a prayer, a spell: May we hold onto what is left of our culture. May La Mission live on. May we never feel like the walking dead in our home.

Amen.


Read: Get Some Ofrenda Inspo with These Altars Honoring Our Ancestors for Día de los Muertos

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You Will Cry Tears Of Joy When You See This Abuela Doing a Mariachi Howl After Getting Surprised On Her 93rd Birthday

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You Will Cry Tears Of Joy When You See This Abuela Doing a Mariachi Howl After Getting Surprised On Her 93rd Birthday

Abuelas are the best. They’re wise, fierce, cranky, and, if you’re lucky, they are so loving. That is why it’s so important to pay them the respect they’ve earned, while also celebrating their incredible life. People should honor their grandparents each year as if it’s their last — and in a way that they’d love.

That’s exactly what one family did for their grandmother.

A family in Arizona surprised their 93-year-old abuela on her birthday and holy hell was it sweet.

Twitter/Twitter/@Bracamonteee21

As soon as nana opened the door, her family started playing mariachi music, and she loved it! We have no idea how many people were in that house, but by the sounds of it, there was a lot. Her stunned face clearly showed she had no idea a birthday party in her honor would be behind the door.

The coolest part is seeing this cute abuelita do a mariachi howl.

Twitter/@Bracamonteee21

She seemed so ecstatic not only to be celebrating her birthday with her family, but also to be celebrating herself. Reaching that 93rd year is an incredible accomplishment and you can tell she was happy for herself.

The tweet — posted by @Bracamonteee21 — has since gone viral and has been retweeted more than 30,000 times.

“Thank you all for your kind words ???????? I’ll be going over to my nana house today to show her ❤️????,” @Bracamonteee21 tweeted. Although the family celebrated their nana’s birthday on March 25, today is actually her birthday. @Bracamonteee21 tweeted today: “Lunch with nana for her birthday ????❤️.”

Here’s some of peoples reaction to this heartwarming video.

She was so happy!

We live for these kinds of tweets.

If we’re not crying happy tears, then what’s the point?

We must see how they celebrate her 94th birthday.

She is everyone’s nana now.

The afterlife should feel like this kind of party.

We can only hope.

READ: The Bachelorette Learned That Latina Suegras Don’t Mess Around

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If You Laugh At These 20 Tweets About Abuelas, You’re Def Going to Hell

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If You Laugh At These 20 Tweets About Abuelas, You’re Def Going to Hell

The matriarchs of our families, our abuelas deserve unwavering respect for everything they’ve done to love and raise us. Teaching us right from wrong, showing their love through food and quietly sacrificing for their loved ones, our grandmas are extraordinary people. Still, that doesn’t stop us from making fun of these hilarious little women.

There’s no better place to find jokes about our abuelitas than on Twitter. Whether it’s about their salty ways or their tough love, there’s plenty of tweets that poke good natured fun at them. Just don’t let your abuela catch you laughing.

They’re pretty funny, but if you laugh at these abuela tweets, you’re def going to hell.

1. Abuela just isn’t tech savvy.

Twitter / @noproperlady


To be honest, you’re probably lucky if your abuela’s house even has wifi. If it does, don’t count on an easy-to-remember password. Our abuelas didn’t come up in the tech age like we did so it’s understandable that this stuff is hard for them. Still, don’t make fun of your grandmother too much unless you want to be stuck doing tech support.

2. *Stares in Abuelita*

Twitter / @yeli_tu


Let’s be real, not much is going to stop an abuelita from making judgements about her grandchild’s life. Not even the afterlife. So, you can be sure that no matter what you’re doing, your abuela is somewhere out there looking at you while tiredly mumbling, “Ay, Dios.”

3. That authentic Abuela smell.

Twitter / @sarair_


Considering our abuelas stay trying to feed us, it makes sense that even their scent is tied to the kitchen. Whether it’s pozole and limón or menudo and pan dulce, those smells are kind of like your abuela’s personalized perfume. It might not be Chanel N°5, but it smells great to us.

4. You’re never too grown to get yelled at.

Twitter / @brittalaflame


If you think you’re old enough to avoid getting chewed out by abuela, think again. As matriarch of la familia, she’s earned the right to check you whenever she wants. However, it’s not just you that’s in for it. Whenever you feel bad about getting in trouble, remember all those times you’ve seen your abuela take your mom down too.

5. Don’t mess with perfection.

Twitter / @iwatchVHS


When it comes to things that are sacred, their home cooking is like a religion to our abuelas. You mess with that, and you’re messing with something almost holy. So, if you don’t want your abuelita to look like this, you might just was to comer los frijoles like she told you to.

6. She’s earned it.

Twitter / @kelseydarragh


Listen, abuela has had a hard day and she deserves to unwind. It may be 9 am here but what do they say about it being 5 o’clock somewhere? Don’t judge abuela. Just give her una mas tequila shot and go on with your business.

7. Abuelita tried to save our soul.

Twitter / @ItsAllBollocks


Mija, you’re precious to abuela. She only wants to make sure you’re protected in this world and the next. The least you could do is gargle some holy water and stop making fun of your poor abuelita.

8. The newest Olympic sport.

Twitter / @shadiacrespo


Abuela might love you, but she’s not above taking off her chancla and putting you in your place. So, abuela’s naturally going to dominate in this game. Look at it this way, you weren’t victimized by her chancla — you were just her training partner.

9. The Look™

Twitter / @Lib_Librarian


Garunteed, if you’re back on your BS, you’re going to get that official Look™ from your abuela. It could send a chill down the spine of the baddest hombre and stop your grown tios right in their tracks. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of the Look™ when you aren’t on the receiving end but you better hope abuela doesn’t turn it towards you.

10. Abuelita likes to party, too.

Twitter / @lelatoledo14


There are two possibilities here. This abuela could have only seen the word “Jesus” and shared it in hopes to spread el amor de Dios. Or, abuelita just likes to par-tay. Either way, you do you, grandma and thanks for the laugh.

11. She’s got your best interest at heart.

Twitter / @Viciousjess


If you think you have freedom to pursue anyone you want, think again. When she asks “Y el novio?” she’s not trying to see someone with a giant tattoo on his face. Unless that tattoo is La Virgincita or the crucifixion. Those MIGHT get a pass.

12. Sana sana colita de rana

Twitter / @fifyy01


Abuelas made Vivaporu what it is today. Now, even folks outside the Latinidad know the power of this little jar. That being said, if abuelas could mix their love of food with their love of Vicks, we’d already know it. However, there’s no doubt they already tried it.

13. Savage, abuela, savage.

Twitter / @WandyFelicita


Abuelas don’t hold their tongues when it comes to criticizing their grandkids. In fact, you’re sure to get some solid shade if abuela is feeling especially feisty. That art of subtle yet devastating shade is something you can’t be taught. You simply inherit the talent when you become an abuelita yourself.

14. This look didn’t age well.

Twitter / @rauls2cool


Keep in mind this was the style back in the day, but that tattooed makeup didn’t age well with the changing trends. Especially when it comes to those thin, high-arched eyebrows abuela has tattooed up on her forehead. Still, be careful about teasing abuela over this look unless you want her to roast you on your own makeup game.

15. Abuela swears by it.

Twitter / @krystashayeoh


If you look in every purse and bag in your abuela’s home, you’re going to find tubs of Vaporu. According to her, this magicial miracle can cure your cold, stop your runny nose, heal your broken bones, heal your broken heart and find you a new man. Here’s to hoping we can believe in ourselves as much as our abuelas believe in vaporu.

16. Abuela didn’t raise no diablos.

Twitter / @commonhspanicg


Abuela didn’t raise no dark brujas so you better not show up looking like one. If you come around with those devil nails, be prepared to get on your knees and recite the rosario for the rest of the night. She’s just trying to save your soul, mija, and that’s no laughing matter.

17. Every Abuela everywhere.

Twitter / @kaliwhatchumean


No matter where your grandma is from or how old she is, she probably looks like this. It’s only natural. One day you look like yourself, and the next day you’ve become an abuela. Is it funny? Sure, but you might not want to laugh. This is a glimpse into your own future, after all.

18. Masters of chisme.

Twitter / @taejinkoook


If you want that good chisme, you’ve got to head to abuela’s kitchen for the download. She’s got the goods on the whole community and she’s ready to spread everyone’s business. Except for you, of course. She’d never gossip about her precious grandchild. Just kidding; she’s totally talking about you too.

19. We get it from our abuelas.

Twitter / @DiovanniFrazier


Abuela has always been a bad babe, but when she was your age, she was the fiercest mujer on the block. She definitely hasn’t forgotten about it. So, if you ever start feelin’ yourself a bit too much, allow abuelita to humble you a bit. It will serve as a reminder of what a babe SHE was.

20. Every BBQ ever.

Twitter / @commonhspanicg


If anyone deserves to kick back and enjoy the asado, it’s abuela. Grab her a cerveza and fix her un otro plato. Our abuelas give us so much joy, fun, love and knowledge so let’s show these cute old ladies our respect.

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