Today is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Latin cultures.
One of the cooler things about being an American is, as the mongrel product of our Melting Pot society and its blending of cultures from all across the globe, we can re-create ourselves however we see fit, and there is no shortage of influence to draw from.
In Birmingham there has erupted a grassroots celebration of Dia de los Muertos that has become one of the cultural highlights of our fair city. Begun by the decidedly Anglo Tracy Martin as effort to both remember and celebrate the life of her father, it has become a city wide celebration richly embraced by our own Latino community and beyond.
Local artists and volunteers come together to put on rich displays of celebration and remembrance and provide an elaborate and festive backdrop for locals to gather and remember loved ones past. The highlight of the evening is the Role Call. Names of those past are collected and read out in a Role Call of the Dead, with those remaining to call “present” and remember as their loved one’s names come up.
For the past three years I have had the honor of donating firewood for the fire pits that dot the landscape, adding warmth and light to the night time portion of the celebration. For one evening a year I relish the “rock star” status that donation earns me with backstage passes and access to the keg of beer donated by one of our local breweries.
Then as pictures are posted and passed around I can point out, with no shortage of pride, “See that fire? I made that.” From a storm blown tree to stacked firewood, I cut, toted, split and toted again. It’s a bright display of an otherwise quiet and personal passion and an excellent metaphor for the full reward of effort and hard work.
Work that gives is always the most satisfying. I’d split and stack it even if I didn’t use it to heat the house, it’s a workout that produces more than just health and strength. That part of that labor can go toward making a bright celebration like Dia a little brighter just makes it all the more sweeter.
So, tonight I’ll be downtown, waiting on the Role Call, pointing out the fruits of my labor to anyone who’ll listen and waiting to yell, “Here” when my dad’s name is called.
See you there.
To our imperfect perfection,