When I first met Leticia Vazquez, she taught me the word tocaya – it’s the Spanish term for “name twin.” She’s my first tocaya – and the only person I’ve ever met who pronounces our name in that special way, “Leh-tee-see-ah.” Our relationship has been based on sharing since our first encounter at a “paper flower” workshop at Global Gallery in the early 2000s. Vazquez has been committed to cultural sharing since her arrival to this city.
Vazquez moved to to Columbus in 1999 as part of an exchange facilitated by the Columbus International Program – a group seeking to grow cultural diversity within the community. Immediately upon arriving to the city, Vazquez took the lead on hosting many cultural events – including a Día de los muertos – or Day of the Dead – celebration. From the very first gathering, she found an eager audience for understanding Día de los muertos. Community members found solace in celebrating life and speaking about death in a manner different from very American traditions around death and dying.
This year, she reached out and asked if I’d resurrect ¡Dímelo, Columbus! to spread the word about this year’s Day of the Dead Celebration. The event this year will take place on October 20th at Greenlawn Cemetery. More information is available at the facebook page or the main Latino Arts for Humanity page. Listen for more below about Vazquez’s journey to Columbus and what to expect from this year’s Día de los muertos event! Feel free to contact Vazquez at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in getting involved!
Bringing Mexico City to Columbus, Ohio:
🎧 Listen (3:02)
“My name is Leticia Vasquez and I’m originally from Mexico City. I came to Columbus in 1999. I came with a program that was called Columbus International Program – it’s no longer. My background is in tourist administration, so I came when I was working in the hotel industry… to be leaving I was just like ‘where is Columbus Ohio?’ That was funny… The only thing I don’t get accustomed to is the winter, I don’t like the winter at all!”
More than just a holiday:
🎧 Listen (6:39)
“It’s more than a holiday, it’s just a way to live. Like when you have a bicycle and it’s just in your life, so you see it all the time. We don’t see it as something specific or as a holiday, it’s just so natural.”
“The colors, I think that’s what sticks in my mind, the papel picado, the sugar skulls that we exchange with friends.. and then when you go to the cemetery and bring flowers, it’s a party, it’s not scary – just natural. When you’re a kid, you see a skull and you’re not scared. I don’t want to see the day of the dead like a marketing thing like what happened with Halloween…. Halloween has a particular background that’s very interesting but people forget about it and it’s just the time to buy candy… I love the Coco movie with all the colors – but in the end, for me, I’m Mexican and it’s a Disney movie. It presents some things that we weren’t exactly honoring… The biggest difference was the alebrijes, they’re beautiful, but they’re contemporary!”
“Everything that lives will die:”
🎧 Listen (5:47)
“The way that I started doing the event is because with the CIP in 1999, they asked me to do a country presentation. I had ten people and they were so happy, they started crying – they really got the connection. They were crying about the meaning and how they felt… I always explain the concept and meaning, why we do the incense, salt, water.. and everybody has a way to connect since then we kept doing worships and it kept growing.”
“There is a lot of poetry in Nahuatl that is beautiful… it says something like as a flower you will dry as everything lives will die… I see life like that with the seasons, that’s why we talk about that with Day of the Dead.”
An “ofrenda” or offering from the Day of the Dead Celebration. (Photo courtesy Latino Arts for Humanity)
Flowers take a central role in the celebration, especially marigolds which are known as the flowers of the dead. An “ofrenda” or offering from the Day of the Dead Celebration. (Photo courtesy Latino Arts for Humanity)
Calavera, or skeleton a the Day of the Dead celebration (An “ofrenda” or offering from the Day of the Dead Celebration. (Photo courtesy Latino Arts for Humanity)
Day of the Dead:
🎧 Listen (5:29)
“This year it’s going to be October 20th in the Greenlawn Cemetery. We have a big loop in the cemetery. There will be three food trucks, another one that’s coffee with donuts and then we’ll have vendors, all small crafters – everything is what they hand make about the Day of the Dead…there will be music… we’re having also the Aztec Mexica group, the one that dances with the feathers, and then the Catrina contest.”
🎧 Listen (3:09)
“Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to help people. I remember when I was little I’d share my money with my friends to buy candy… There is always somebody you can make happy so that’s been always what has been moving me through life, to help others. Thank god I’ve been very blessed in my life and when I look back I see it’s because I’ve never been worried about getting things for myself… I mean I’m a hard worker, but I see things like all the roads are open for me and maybe it’s that, it’s a combination of trying to give to others, to be good, and to be true.”