Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena remembered in Day of Dead altars

By JO ANN ZUÑIGA Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:13 PM 10/19/1995

As the time for the Hispanic tradition commemorating the death of loved ones coincides with the trial of slain singer Selena, ofrendas, or altars, are being created to honor her. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), usually celebrated Nov. 1-2 to coincide with Catholicism's All Souls Day, has become part of a healing process for many who participate, said Macario Ramirez, owner of Casa Ramirez Folkart in the Heights.

He invited a dozen area artists of all ethnicities to decorate altars with flowers and personal mementos of the deceased, including favorite food and articles of clothing. The official opening is today from 5:30-9 p.m. at 239 W. 19th St. Jennifer Maderazo, 18, placed framed photos of Selena Quintanilla Perez hugging family members along the altar. Heart-shaped purple candles, the singer's favorite color, are interspersed among white roses, Selena's flower of choice. Marigolds are added, which to the Aztecs symbolized death, since the Spaniards' main reason for conquest was the search for gold.

A painted sign addressed to Selena reads in Spanish "Con Tu Adios Te Llevas Mi Corazon," Your Goodbye Takes My Heart. "This was the only way I could let go of the sadness I was feeling," said Maderazo, who previously created a similar exhibit for the Severed Image Gallery on Milam. Hamilton Middle School students also contributed to the altar with postcard-sized drawings. One reads, "I Hope Justice Is Served." Writer Bonnie Gangelhoff created a tribute to her parents, killed in 1968 when an airliner crashed into the Irish Sea off Wales. Her altar took the form of celebrating what would have been her parents' 50th wedding anniversary this year. A pewter teapot holds dried flowers, while two white china plate settings are paired with goblets and a bottle of wine.

But the ofrendas can also bid farewell to events. An artist who wishes to be identified only as Agnes marks the death of her innocence. In a tribute titled "a lost childhood,"she said a priest raped her on her seventh birthday. Her remembrance recalls the priest's words: "Your freckles are like kisses from angels." Alongside her picture as a girl, she placed jacks and a ball, a doll, bubblegum and a Pez dispenser. "There's a lot of things I don't remember," she said. "But this is an offering to other survivors to get therapy. It has helped in my healing."

On Wednesday, the Museo Guadalupe from the Centro Aztlan set up an altar to Selena with students from Wilson Elementary School, 2100 Yupon. The group will meet in Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery on Nov. 2 to place flowers on graves and even picnic there to teach the children about the cycle of life and death, museum director Jesus Medel said. "This is an indigenous tradition that predates the conquest and has a healthy perspective," he said.