A Day to Remember


(and to cry, to laugh, and to sing - together)

Today, Monday, November 1, began auspiciously with the surprise visit from a beautiful omen.

My eldest son, Enzo, and I were setting up The Circle at Hacienda Dominguez for a gathering in honor of el Día de los Muertos when, suddenly, a Monarch butterfly fluttered around la ofrenda, the altar.

It so happens that today was a big day for Monarchs, because this is normally when they land in Michoacán, México after migrating thousands of miles from places like New Mexico and California (Old México).

To explain this seemingly insignificant phenomenon, one might defer to the cause du jour, climate change, to explain this unexpected visitor who was supposed to be somewhere else.

However, as I like to (make)believe it was a sign that the spirits of our ancestors and recently passed loved ones felt welcomed to visit for the next two days, as we celebrated the Day of the Dead in their honor.

Thus, after six that night, after everyone had mingled and we’re warmed up by the chimeneas burning aromatic piñon, the Mexican comfort food (tamales and homemade tostadas), and the heartwarming company, I began the evening with the following remarks:

“Welcome, bienvenidos.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here, we are sincerely happy that you have joined us for this very special occasion that our family has celebrated for so many years.

I have one disclaimer, tonight you are allowed and encouraged to laugh and cry. Hence, the tissue boxes, hence I’m reading these prepared remarks, which without I would choke up otherwise. You’re also allowed to cheer, to talk, to share, to sing and feel in any and every way you deem appropriate.

One of the things I’m most proud of as a Mexican-American is that our culture embraces our emotions, it is no secret that we are sappy. All my five children, from my oldest to my youngest, will tell you I don’t hold back when it comes to commercials and Mexican rancheras, the tears flow and I am not ashamed. Indeed, I am very proud, because it reminds me how human we all are.”

Últimamente, we had many visitors this first evening, including 40 friends and neighbors who gathered outside in the patio circle at 36HTR overlooking the valley toward the amazing sunset settling in the west upon Ortiz Mountains and Cerrillos Hills.

Many of them brought memories to delicately unfold with a few carefully curated words from the library of fond memories each lifetime makes; some read poems, others told funny and heartwarming stories or read the lyrics to a song dedicated to a lost loved one.

Together, our intimate and communal occasion welcomed and celebrated the spirits that reminded us of how fortunate we are to remain among the living; and the ceremonial sharing reminded us to cherish the memories we continue making with living friends and family that we may otherwise take for granted.

Personally, this magical evening reminded me of how incredibly fortunate our family is to be living and accepted in this awesome community of Cerrillos.

I was particularly moved by how the big horse-wrangling men in the crowd had some of the most heartwarming stories to share. The communion of memories and comida demonstrated that we were all willing to leave our egos outside the gate and that no one was king of the hill here, because by rejoicing and regaling and crying together we were reminded that we are all cut from the same cloth of humanity.

Although I wanted to take photos, I deferred to the notion that some would prefer a sense of privacy during the intimate evening we shared. So, I’m only sharing the photos taken by myself and other guests of our communal altar.

And then…the magic continued the next morning on day two of Dia de los Muertos with an awe-inspiring sunrise, which I’m resharing with this post.