Day of the dead spaces are usually not associated with Queer culture. When one hears about a Chican@ cultural event, one doesn’t think that their will be a Queer element present, does one? Noche de Altares in Santa Anathis year shifted those paradigms by having such an immense presence of Queers, Chican@s, and Queer Chican@s at the event. Besides the many LGBTQ couples who attended the Saturday November 5th event, Altares were made by Queer community members. One in particular was the rainbow Calaveras that were present at the site. There were six Calaveras about 10 feet high each dressed in garments from purple to red. They were monumental memorials to LGBTQ individuals who have left this lifetime in order to transcend to a higher state of being. These Calaveras were enjoyed by everyone present at the celebration. They gave off an “Orgull@” energy which the crowd responded too. Members of the Queer community were present as well as the artist who is in alliance with DeColores, a queer group in Santa Ana who set-up an altar as well. The rainbow has traditionally been a symbol of diversity and used iconically within the greater LGBTQ community. At one point in the evening, I walked by a Big time Cholo with a Mexica calendar Serape standing right in front of the Purple Calavera throwing his hands up all Bad! Also, there were numerous Altars which were dedicated to victims of Bullying and Hate crimes where signs such as “Homophobia Mata” were displayed. These Altars represented 3rd spaces where Queer Chican@ Muertos had an ability to convey messages to their families, friends, and communities.
There was also another interesting element to the evening. At one point there was a Catrina on stilts that was being escorted by Male/female Calaveras. The men were dressed as Catrinas of sorts in white garments with crowns of roses and skull painted faces. I saw one running around during the night, immediately noticing that this young two-spirit calavera had a legitimate space within this ceremony. Dia de los Muertos, as Octavio Paz has stated in his book the Labyrinth of Solitude, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration where “normality” is bended and altered in the spirit of the ceremony. Also, here we see traces of indigenous Two-Spirit practice manifest in an ancient Native ceremony of Mexico. LGBTQ individuals have always been present as essential threads of the serape that our cultura weaves on the loom of earth.
This Dia de los Muertos was an interaction between the Chol@, Chican@, and Queer community. Each shared a space at this ceremony which our people have celebrated for thousands of years. It makes sense that a ceremony is what brings two diverse communities together. Dia de los Muertos is seen as a Chican@/Mexican@ space. Chican@/Mexican@ spaces are not necessarily associated with Queer, or anything LGBTQ for that fact. Having Queer elements fully represented at this event allows for a new generation of thinkers to begin their introductions to the culture already with a Queer perspective included. This can only help to build bridges and foster relationships between one community and another. The “they’s” are the “us’s” as Ilan Stavans states in his piece the “Latin Phallus”. We as Chican@s cannot continually look at the Queer community, ESPECIALMENTE our Queer Chol@s and Chican@s who reside within our Orange spaces.