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Laying down cempazúchitl to honor those lost

Fatima Alvarado

For much of my young life I never truly felt a connection to the day of the dead or “Dia de los Muertos” in Spanish. I saw no importance in the holiday due to me not having dealt with loss quite yet. Losing anyone can have a severe impact on anyone, I just did not think it would have such a big impact on me. It was not until the death of my grandfather in 2017 that I came to this realization.  

Seeing my grandfather slowly lose his bright light due to colon cancer over the span of months in 2016, I knew his death would hit me at some point. I just did not know when. Having passed away Jan. 8, 2017 I still had not accepted that I would no longer hear his voice calling my name or his pet names of ‘chamaco’ or ‘chamaca’ to me or any of my siblings.  

Having grieved my grandfather in many ways, it was not until Disney released the movie “Coco” that I understood how much I missed him and how I wished I could celebrate his life. With a movie surrounding Hispanic heritage, the importance of Dia de los Muertos and hearing the grandfather character Hector call Miguel ‘chamaco’ made me not only feel my grandpa’s presence, but I found myself bawling in a movie theater wishing I could hug my grandpa one more time and tell him how much I missed him.  

It was then, that November night thatI knew I would always honor my grandpa by laying down bunches of cempazúchitl and have an altar for him every Dia de los Muertos. The movie was released a couple of weeks after Dia de los Muertos which takes place at the beginning of November.  

The holiday, which is a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican and Catholic traditions, celebrates the lives of those who many have lost. Common tradition is to create an altar with the deceased’s photo and their favorite items, such as food, cigarettes, hobbies and other items. It is believed that every Nov. 1 and 2, the dead follow the trail of cempazúchitl flowers back to the world of the living to rejoice one day a year with the loved ones they left behind.  

After watching “Coco” I felt guilty for not having an altar for my grandpa that year, making me believe my grandpa’s soul had disappeared because I did not create an altar with his photo. Wiping away my tears, I walked out of the movie theater knowing I could not let the legacy my grandpa created fade away. 

Although my grandpa was not a war hero, esteemed professor, legendary musician or an extraordinary actor, my grandpa was all those things to me. My grandpa, Efren Bello Sr. was a proud American patriot aside from being a migrant from Iguala. When he received his citizenship, he could not have been prouder to be an American, who brought his children to the promised land.  

The amount of knowledge he held and passed on to his children and grandchildren could have fooled anyone, convincing even me that he only had a third-grade education.  

If it were not for the movie “Coco” I don’t think I would have understood how important it is to hold on to the memory of your loved ones and to continue sharing stories about them. Since that day, I have been proud to tell stories of my grandpa and continue his legacy.  

Everyone has an impact on our lives whether it be family, friends, enemies, neighbors or anyone who crosses our path. It is why I find myself not only honoring my grandpa during the day of the dead but also those who I believe need someone to remember them. So, in the words of “Coco,” “The dead are always with us, as long as we keep their memory alive.” 

Itzel Anahi Giron is the editor-in-chief and may be reached at [email protected] ; @ by.itzel .giron on Instagram; @itzel_anahi_16 on X. 

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About the Contributors
Itzel Giron
Itzel Giron, Editor-in-chief
Itzel Giron is a senior multimedia journalism and creative writing student at UTEP. She started her journalistic career at The Prospector in the fall of 2021 as a staff reporter and is now editor-in-chief. Thanks to The Prospector and her tenacity, Itzel has had the opportunity to be an intern with KVIA Channel 7 at El Paso. Itzel is also a freelance journalist, and her work has been published in The City Magazine, Borderzine and Walsworth Yearbooks. After graduation, Itzel hopes to continue her passion of journalism by working in broadcast television reporting on politics, entertainment and news.
Fatima Alvarado
Fatima Alvarado, Designer
Fatima Alvarado is a sophomore at the University of Texas at El Paso, majoring in Communications with a focus in Marketing. She is the layout editor for the Prospector. She plans on pursuing her love in design in journalism and hopes to continue to learn more about working in the field of journalism.
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