Wednesday, December 7, 2011

La Quema del Diablo

Today is La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil), always held on December 7th, which started in Guatemala in Colonial times to prepare for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. People lit lanterns outside of their homes, but those who couldn’t afford lanterns, lit piles of garbage that they gathered from a massive house cleaning. This house cleaning and trash burning began to symbolize a fresh start into the New Year...a sort of cleansing of negative energy. Eventually, tradition evolved and soon it became a yearly event to burn an effigy of the devil at 6 p.m. accompanied by fireworks and firecrackers throughout the country. It is believed that the devil lives in unnecessary and materialistic possessions and represents misfortune and a presence of evil...or negativity. 

I always remember celebrating this night by drinking Ponche (hot punch) and Chocolate Caliente (hot chocolate) - delicious. As a kid, I remember making our pile of trash in front of our house, along with our neighbors. It was so much fun. I can definitely see how scary or odd it would be for someone not knowing the culture and this particular tradition. Every time I explain this tradition, people look at me as though I have three heads.

Now, living in Chicago, my version of a burning pile has become my fireplace. I light it up and throw in a printed picture of the little Devil Piñatas from Guatemala and enjoy a cup of Hot Chocolate. Not the same AT ALL, but I make it work and keep the tradition present.

This night not only represents cleansing your home and yourself, but it also sets forth the Holiday preparations ahead. I like to make this night a bit more special and use it to reflect on the changes I should make...not just for the coming year, but permanently. Traditions like tonight's, really bring to mind my favorite quote: "You better yourself not through the comparison of others, but through the improvement of your previous self."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Music and its Influence

We all know music shapes many of life's takes us back, gives us chills and brings out all sorts of emotions within us. Music also inspires and motivates us.

Recently, I've been listening to various types of music and each style bringing out something different in me. It has inspired me to dwell into different types of art that vary from geometrical and abstract, to simple and colorful. I tend to get so many ideas, that it's hard to decide on which to actually put on paper and/or canvas; but it's those images that come to mind more than once, that I decide to go ahead and pursue. As of late, the music I've been listening to a lot, has been by artists such as:

Little Dragon                               
Beth Ditto
Booka Shade
The Chemical Brothers
Matias Aguayo
Dam Mantle
Dan Black
Ellie Goulding
Florence + The Machine
Gustavo Santaolalla
Passion Pit
The XX

There are a BUNCH more...but these have definitely been very prominent in my iPod. I listen to these artists and music in general before going to bed, while I take a shower, on my way to work, on my way home from work and when I get home for the day. I don't know how I would be, or better yet, how we all would be, without music. Dick Clark said it best: "Music is the soundtrack of our lives" - very true. There are particular songs that bring back specific memories, remind me of specific people, occasions, etc.

Anything dealing with music is very appealing to me. When I go to concerts, I'm the type of person who likes to get there early and once I'm in my seat, I don't like to move at all...not even to get a drink...I don't want to miss a thing. My favorite part, is when the lights dim and the crowd goes wild with anticipation of the show just about to start. Here's an example of the perfect feeling of anticipation at a concert...of course, none other than Madonna:

My dream is to become a would have been completely awesome to be a DJ traveling the world, but I'll settle for the simple experience of being the DJ at one of my parties or a friend's party. I have done so by creating specific playlists, but I'm talking about learning the DJ equipment and the whole nine yards!

Since iTunes came about, I've been addicted to it. I look for music literally everyday. It has come to the point that at times, songs come on my iPod and I don't recognize them. They take me by surprise...I don't remember purchasing these songs; but I see it as a VERY pleasant and unexpected surprise. I love it when that happens! The anticipation of the next song, the next soundtrack, is what keeps me going and keeps inspiring me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Leyendas de Guatemala (Guatemalan Myths)

Recently, I have been inspired by my home country to create a series of pieces incorporating different cultural celebrations, traditions, textiles, ornaments, etc. For example, I created a series of kites from Guatemala’s unique celebration of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or Día de los Santos). I’m also creating a series inspired by the wooden Guatemalan masks, which I have been enjoying quite a lot - but now, I have this itch to create a series based on the myths or stories (leyendas) I grew up listening to as a kid. These leyendas have been passed down  from generation to generation. Many countries in Latin America have their own variations of the leyendas, which are part of the culture. The particular leyendas I’d like to incorporate in my new series are El Sombrerón, La Siguanaba, El Cadejo and La Llorona.  
I will get started with the leyenda of La Siguanaba. La Siguanaba is a beautiful seductive woman with very long hair who is either naked or dressed in flowing white clothing; she usually appears bathing in a public water tank, river, or other water source. She likes to lure lone men (mostly unfaithful men),  out late on dark moonless nights, without letting them see her face at first. She tempts such men away from their planned routes to get them alone with her. She will not reveal her face until the last moment; when it is revealed, she has the face of a horse. From afar the Siguanaba can also imitate the appearance of a man's girlfriend in order to lead him astray.  
The next leyenda I’d like to explore is El Sombrerón. El Sombrerón is a very tiny man, with a huge hat. He likes to mount horses and braid their tails and manes. He also likes to court young ladies who have long hair and big beautiful eyes. When he likes one in particular, he follows her, braids her hair, serenades her with his guitar and beautiful songs; but he also puts soil in her food so that she is not able to eat or sleep and only think of him. El Sombrerón appears at dusk, dragging along a group of mules, with whom he travels around the city and its neighborhoods. When a woman corresponds to his love, he ties the mules to the house where she lives, unhooks his guitar and starts singing and dancing.

Following El Sombrerón, I’ll venture in with El Cadejo. There is a good Cadejo, which is white, and an evil, black Cadejo. Both are spirits that appear at night to travelers. The white Cadejo to protect them from harm during their journey, the black Cadejo, to harm them. The colors of the Cadejo are sometimes exchanged according to local tradition. In some places the black Cadejo is seen as the good one and the white cadejo the evil one. In Guatemala, I grew up hearing only about the black Cadejo, which is good and simply protects drunks on their journey from people trying to harm them. It usually appears in the form of a large, shaggy dog with burning red eyes and goat hooves.

Lastly, I will explore one of the most popular leyendas throughout Latin America – La Llorona. Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman killing her children by drowning them, in order to be with the man she loved. When the man rejects her, she kills herself. Challenged at the gates of heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. She is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name "La Llorona". In some versions of the tale, La Llorona kidnaps wandering children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to see her, say she comes out at night or in the late evenings from rivers or oceans. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death. She is said to cry "¡Ay, mis hijos - Ay, mis hijos!" which translates to "Oh, my children!"