Chronicle Interviews Local Author Andrés Armijo on the Significance of Día de los Muertos in Albuquerque.
Heather Hay interviews Guest Writer of the Chronicle CNM Program Manager at the Stemulus Center and local author Andrés Armijo on Oct 31, 2016
[Chronicle] How long have you been at CNM and why did you decide to perform this talk?
[Andrés] I’m actually a program manager at CNM, and I began working at CNM in January 2015. My teaching experience in Spanish and Southwest Hispanic Studies started in 1996, at UNM. Last year, Jim Johnson had contacted me to see if I would be interested in giving a presentation on Día de los Muertos for one of his classes. I am not an expert on death, however as an author, I have written about some death circumstances in family history. With a master’s degree in Spanish, and Southwest Hispanic Studies, Día de los Muertos is a big part of our culture in the Southwest, and one of my interests.
[Chronicle] What have you noticed, if anything, a change in the way people in Albuquerque celebrate the Day of the Dead?
[Andrés] In recent years the celebration of Día de los Muertos has become popular, if not commercial. I am a native New Mexican Hispanic (Nuevo Mexicanos) and a gen-x. When I was an undergraduate and graduate student, I started seeing more expressions of Día de los Muertos, although for my parent’s generation and before that Día de los Muertos was not very familiar to them. However, recent immigration from our Mexican primos has caused a greater awareness of this important day, and this is fortunate. If you were a Nuevo Mexicanos of generations before me, you would have been accustomed to Halloween (October 31) as a wide-spread costume celebration. In New Mexican Catholocisim, and throughout the Southwest, (and the Spanish speaking/Catholic world, for this matter) one would have observed All Hallow’s Eve (October 31) as the igil of All Saints Day – a holy day of obligation on the liturgical calendar. Of course, this leads up to All Saints Day and All Souls Day – November 1, and November 2, respectively. Fortunately for new and recent immigration from Mexico and other Spanish speaking places in Latin America (New Mexico is, indeed, Latin America) we have enjoyed observation and celebration of Día de los Muertos as integrated in Nuevo Mexicano/Southwest Hispano cultures. From the Marigold Parade in the South Valley of Alburquerque to commercial celebrations in and around the city, this “cultural flourishment” is natural, logical, beautiful and rightly in its place.
[Chronicle] What do you think college students would be most surprised to learn about this tradition?
[Andrés] Likely, all of the above, but mostly that this is not a costume party – its reverence is in its title – day of the dead – that is, respect, reverence, observance and celebration of those lives who have passed on, and whose souls we commemorate.
[Chronicle] Do you think that CNM or colleges in general do enough to promote local cultural events like the Day of the Dead?
[Andrés] I think groups like the Hispanic Heritage Task Team are doing a great job in organizing, celebrating and observing. When communities within communities observe traditions and celebrations, it causes a fortunate effect on disseminating information about culture to the individual, the immediate community, and communities around it.
[Chronicle] What is a reason you can think of why it is important for students here in the Southwest to understand this tradition?
[Andrés] Because the truth is that New Mexico, and the Southwest – is Latin America. Latin America doesn’t stop at the political or geographical borders of Central America, South America, and North America. Latin America is alive and flourishing throughout the Southwest, in its language, peoples, religion, topography, place names and history. Culture in general is fluid and the Mexican cultures flourish in natural habitats such as in New Mexico. This was Mexico – when Mexico won its independence from Spain from being a colony, we were that northern frontier. It’s only because the U.S. invaded New Mexico in 1846 that we became a territory. The Spanish language will always be in the Southwest, as will the observance of Día de los Muertos. Migration and immigration won’t stop because it is in the world’s (people’s) nature to seek, to move, to inquire, to go to places where there are resources. People have been doing this since time immemorial, and will continue to do so. We are not lacking in resources in the Southwest for newly arrived people, and newly arrived people are not lacking in their positive and effective influences and contributions on peoples already here.