Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Join us for Dia de Los Muertos in Mesilla Plaza

I'd like to interrupt my regular blog postings to talk about an event we are having this weekend in Mesilla Plaza. As part of the Calavera Coalition's Dia de los Muertos celebration, the Humane Society of Southern New Mexico (HSSNM) is leading the charge in building an altar to honor and welcome the spiritual visits from our beloved pets who have passed on as well as the thousands of homeless animals we still put to death each year in our community. All the animal-welfare groups are invited to participate, as well as the general public.

We will build the altar this Friday, starting at 4 p.m. I have not written my high-volume spay/neuter blog this week because I am busy making candles and other items to decorate the altar. I want it to be as authentic as possible, but animal calaveras are hard to come by.

For those unfamiliar with this Mexican holiday (also celebrated in other cultures as well in different ways), we believe that the souls of our loved ones visit us one day each year, and we build altars to remember them, honor them, and offer their favorite things to them as well. Nov. 1st, also known as All Saints Day, welcomes children who have died, and Nov. 2nd, also known as All Souls Day, welcomes the adults who have died.

Traditional altars are decorated with various folk art pieces that depict skeletons (calaveras), also called muertos, engaging in celebration or other enjoyable activities as well as actual pictures and other momentos. (See the calavera cat at left, enjoying itself in front of the fireplace). Depending on who you are honoring with your altar, you make sure that those visiting have all of the things they used to love, from their favorite food and drink to items that represent their hobbies and pasttimes, etc.

For our pet altar this year, we are honoring our personal pets that have passed away as well as all our homeless animals that have been put to death. We are including items such as fresh water, dog food, cat food, toys, treats, leashes, brushes, etc., and we invite the public and other groups to bring items to add into the altar. We also would like the various animal groups to bring literature we can hand out all weekend.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one of my favorite celebrations. It may seem morbid, but that is not its intent. It strives to give us a healthy outlook toward death, which is an inevitable part of life for us all. It gives us hope that we live on somehow in spirit and can actually visit our loved ones and come back to see how they are paying tribute to us. To me, it shows that death is the greatest equalizer in that no matter what you look like, no matter how much money you make, no matter your gender or the color of your skin, when we die, we are all calaveras underneath it all. On one hand, you honor and remember those you loved and reminisce about good times with them, and on the other hand, you mock death and come to terms with it.

So, come join us for this wonderful celebration. Bring pictures of your dearly departed pets, write a tribute poem or two to them, bring offerings to the homeless animals who are gone, or just stop by to pick up literature and buy a muerto candle or candle holder that myself and my boss have been busy handmaking this year (thanks Charlotte!). All money collected for these items will be donated to the participating animal-welfare groups.

The Calavera Coalition is also asking for canned good items for HUMANS -- to be donated to various women's and children's groups in town. So, you can give something to all of those less fortunate in our community. There will be other altars up as well as crafts being sold and food and music and more.

I hope to see everyone there. Myself and other HSSNM volunteers will be at the pet altar both Sat. and Sun. from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we will break down the altar on Sunday.

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