On Sunday, November 1, 2020, All Saints’ Day and Día de los Muertos Eve, I presented a show entitled “Missing my Muertos” on WFMU’s Radio Row.
El Día de los Muertos has ancient indigenous roots in what is now known as México with rituals and iconography that evolved after the European conquest and subsequent colonialism. More recently, the sacred season has morphed even further due to Coco-fication (thanks, Disney), also known as the pizza effect, in the form of plastic calaveras and Day of the Dead-themed paraphernalia sold at dollar stores and high-end boutiques alike.
But the bottom line remains the same: this is the season when the dead come home.
The show features music I gathered from my own private playlist of grieving and healing. I am building a bicultural/bilingual ofrenda, an offering of songs, which represents my own personal muertitos whose absence still kill me, and whose yearly visitations are cause for pause and celebration.
Oh, how I miss my rancho schoolteacher great-grandma, and my favorite tío, the fisherman, and my loco father who died alone in his easy chair, and my secret hero lover man, and my puro Mexicano grandpa who wept at Hank Williams’ songs, and my bad abuela who showed me where to look among the garbage and the flowers, and my sad clown tío who only recently joined this army of angels.
Distance keeps me from visiting cemeteries and cleaning graves, and some of my muertos aren’t buried anywhere anyway, so that part of the tradition dies with me.
In San Antonio, the wind starts to shift around mid-October, and I feel this glittery feeling as I prepare to build a home altar that is a centerpiece of memory. The idea is to tempt the spirits, or at least remind them, of their former earthly delights.
Photos, artifacts, favorite foods and libations to jog their senses, candles and cempasúchil (marigolds) to help them navigate the fog, water to parch the dusty thirst, and music, always music.
Ofrendas and altars are a way of sending signals through the wispy veil, but I like the idea that “Missing My Muertos” will be transmitted over radio and Internet waves. And then archived!
The songs themselves will flow out and mirror the now debunked, but still relevant, Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief, and I find it achingly appropriate that I use my airtime to acknowledge the dead and dedicate songs to them during the 2020 pandemic.
Who didn’t feel denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and (finally, maybe) acceptance over the past months in quarantine?
In my research I found that there is a proposed sixth stage: meaning.
Maybe I want my show to mean something in the face of all this loss.
Mainstream and subculture, American and Latinx, dead and living, women and men, we all lose what we love most, and that includes this earthly existence. The encroaching appropriation of a Mexican holiday with indigenous roots is only tapping into a universal, though long buried, part of life on earth.
As Nick Cave and friends insist: death is not the end.
Recording "Missing My Muertos" from my casita.
Natasha Hernandez (Dj HEAVYFLOW) and I discussed through Zoom our processes of curating musical selections within the politics of identity, consciousness, and location. We presented, answered Q&A, and shared playlists for students to continue engagement beyond the presentation.
DJ Despeinada spins vinyl soundscapes of the borderlands.
In her sets, she centers women/identified artists of color, both in response to DJs who primarily amplify male voices and musicians, but also because it SOUNDS really good, healing, and inspiring to remember and reconnect with all the mothers and sisters and daughters who created beautiful songs throughout eras, cultures, and across genres.
DJ Despeinada is currently accepting commissions for digital DJ sets & curated playlists.
Special rates available for non-profit organizations.
DJ Despeinada has collaborated with countless San Anto organizations and curated sets for many unforgettable private parties.
Some of her most cherished partnerships (both official and implied) include:
Saluté International Bar (where she honed her DJ identity)
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (which helped catapult her career)
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
McNay Art Museum
San Antonio AIDS Foundation
Martinez Street Women's Center
San Antonio Public Library
Southwest Worker's Union
Southwest School of Art
San Antonio Museum of Art
San Antonio Current
Centro San Antonio
International Women's Day March SA
Trinity University Press
Copyright © 2020 Bonnie Ilza Cisneros - All Rights Reserved.