From "The Memoirs: Volume Two" -


            Earlier in Oaxaca, Sergio had proposed to me and then to the IOC, the state cultural institute of Oaxaca, that we, that is Teatro Vivo de Oaxaca, and the Frente Común, of course, do a big center altar in the Alameda, directly in front of the Cathedral, for Oaxaca’s grand celebration of Day of the Dead.  It would be November First and Second.

            It would be an “alternative” altar, he said, not like anything done before, we would use elements of the traditional altar but different, our own.  I started to draw up some ideas and plans.



            We would use three different elements; first a giant replica of the famous, pre-Hispanic stone monument, Coatlique, the goddess of corn, of birth, Mother of the Earth.




            Second, over the head of Coatlique, a huge skull with grinning teeth, symbol of Day of the Dead.  And third, over it all we would drape a giant black rebosa, the traditional shawl worn by the women of Oaxaca today.



            Sergio got the permission and did the paperwork and everything was ready.


            So on the final Saturday of October we began in earnest to construct the giant Coatlique at the Taller Rufino Tamayo.  With a crew of about seven and Sergio and his boys running around getting stuff, we went to work.

            It was built in nine large pieces, each about 8 feet or so and, in my old style, built of cardboard over a wooden frame then covered with cloth and glue and painted.  Nobody had any idea, as usual, what the thing would look like nor what section they were making.  By Saturday evening, we had almost all the sections built and covered with cardboard and by Sunday night covered with cloth and glue.  As it had been raining (still into October!) almost every night, we covered things with lots of plastic and hoped for the best.  Well, that night was a real storm with lots of rain and the next morning a lot of our work with the cloth and glue had come undone.  So Monday was spent waiting for everything to dry, then putting more cloth and glue and waiting for that to dry, then painting and waiting for that to dry.



            Sergio arranged for us to borrow some scaffolding units, from the construction then going on in the Santo Domingo cultural center.  The muchachos loaded them up and brought them to the Alameda.  A large bed of platforms had come from the city and on top of these we erected the scaffold, over 35 feet tall.





            The large pieces of the Coatlique were brought over from the taller and hoisted into place.  Then the giant skull was set in its place.  It was truly impressive.




            On the final night of October, we were putting the finishing details on the altar and arranging the flowers and candles and food on the bed of platforms.  Suddenly our flowers and such looked very small under this enormous sculpture and I said to Sergio, “We need something bigger, some big candle holders or big oversized vases or such!  What can we do?”

            He thought a moment and looked across the plaza to the old Cathedral, rising before us.  “They have a lot of big stuff in there,” he said.

            He motioned to a muchacho with a hand-truck to follow him, and he walked boldly into the front door.



            I shook my head and went back to work.  In about twenty minutes, out comes Sergio and two muchachos and a huge load of huge tin and brass candle holders, urns, vases, big trays and oversized chalices.  We ran to the market for more flowers and put them all up on the giant altar.  We lit the candles and hooked up the lights from my studio and it came alive.




            That day thousands of people walked slowly passed, late into the night and all through the following two days.

            The crew stayed with it and was busy keeping the candles lit and talking with the crowd and answering questions.  It was very exciting to hear the comments and feel the energy of the thing.



            A lot of people took pictures of it and commented for a long time about the big Altar del Día de Muertos of 1995.  And Sergio and I grew even closer in our grand projects and would do many more.


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            Russell got off a great photo of the altar looking out at it through the Cathedral doors.



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