copal burning
She is watching the burning
of copal incense, used to
purify a ceremonial space.
Xipe Totec* Danzantes Aztecas (an Aztec/Mexica dance troupe)
Director Virginia Carmelo, Los Angeles, California
*Aztec deity of spring and new life

They were performing ritual dances for El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) cultural festival at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. As I watched Xipe Totec, I was reminded of the dedicated Hawaiian dancers I had observed when I lived on the island of Oahu. (Interestingly enough, I once emceed a performance of ballet folklórico in Hawaii by an island-based Mexican-American organization.) When I look at these photos, I can still hear the trumpets blowing, rattles shaking, and the fervent beat of the drums.

Photos copyright © November 1, 2009 Kat Avila / Time: late afternoon / Camera: Canon SD780 IS
altar offering
pan de los muertos
(bread of the dead)
from an ofrenda (altar)
inside the museum
Bowers Museum
(est. 1936)
Mission Revival-style bldg.
Mariachi Kids
RHYTHMO Mariachi Kids,
dir. Gabriel B. Zavala,
of Anaheim, California
Los Sonadores
Grupo Folklórico
Los Soñadores,

dir. Joan Krischenbaum,
of Lake Forest, California
Los Sonadores
Grupo Folklórico
Los Soñadores,

dir. Joan Krischenbaum,
of Lake Forest, California
Pio Pico's carriage
Governor Pío Pico's* carriage
at Bowers Museum

*Last governor of Mexican
Alta California before U.S. era.
runaway baby
a runaway baby
dance dance
Everybody is in place
and waiting.
blowing of trumpets
blowing of la concha
(the conch) and other
horn instruments
procession of members
procession of members
blowing trumpets
blowing trumpets
dance dance
dance damce blowing trumpets
blowing trumpets
blowing trumpets
blowing trumpets
They are using a
teponaztli slit drum and
two huéhuetl upright drums.

dance dance vocalist
vocalist/cantor stands by
drummer playing
teponaztli slit drum
dance dance drummer
right-side makeup
left-side skull makeup
The ayoyote leg rattles
use seed pods from the
Strychnos toxifera tree.
battle mode
battle mode
the victor
The victor removes his
opponent's headdress.
Cempasuchil (marigold)
petals encircle the slain.
flute player
A flauta (flute) is heard.
La Muerte (Death) comes
to take the warrior home.
packing it up
packing it up
headdress headdress headdress headdress

Inside Bowers Museum
tomb lid
limestone tomb lid of Maya
Lord Pacal (615-683 A.D.)
clay dogs
West Mexico
(c. 200 B.C.-300 A.D.)
jaguar metate
volcanic rock jaguar metate
Costa Rica
(c. 300-700 A.D.)
flicker bird headband
Northern California
(circa early 1900s)
shaman's headdress
Yokut shaman's headdress
of raven feathers, eagle down
Central California
(circa early 1900s)
University of California, Irvine, MEChA Día de los Muertos Celebration
The ofrenda (altar) presents a provocative mixture of religious imagery with influences from the cultures of the colonizer (European-adapted Christianity) and the colonized (pre-invasion indigenous folk customs).
Photos copyright © November 2, 2009 Kat Avila / Time: early evening / Camera: Canon SD780 IS
Artist Luis-Genaro Garcia
was the keynote speaker.
Christian cross outlined with
marigold flowers and lights
(pic taken from top of stairs)
calavera (handcrafted
skeleton) at the top of
the skull-shaped ofrenda
The students brought
family pictures and other
offerings for the ofrenda.
ballet folklorico
ballet folklórico