By Teatro Vivo de Oaxaca, A.C.

The Walking Street of Alcalá

Oaxaca, Mexico, October 31, 2001



From “The Memoirs, Volume Two” :



            Talk about depressing!

            George Bush was about to start bombing Afghanistan.


            Sergio was around a lot and we always talked about it and Day of the Dead was coming up and we remembered the numerous altars we had done.

            “Let’s do one against the war,” he said.

            “Perfect,” I replied.

            So he went and talked to his friend, Freddy, at the IAGO, Toledo’s graphics arts museum, right on the Alcalá walking street and directly in front of the big Santo Domingo church.  He reported back.

            “Yeah, we can do it,” he said, “right in front of IAGO, any time we want.”

            “Well, what about permission, like from the city?”  I had done a lot of stuff on that street and others, and knew permission from the city was always important, what with the street cops and inspectors coming by.

            “It’s IAGO’s space.  They can do anything they want.  Besides, this is gorilla theater, Bill!” he said.  I thought well, OK, let’s do it, but Oh, brother!


*  *  *


            So Sergio got a bunch of kids from his school to help and I drew up some sketches.  It was based around a giant, realistic skull shaped like a globe with bloody continents dripping down its head and positioned on a huge pile of other skulls, life-sized, and assorted bones and rifles scattered underneath.

            Up on the roof at the Periférico, our crew constructed the big skull, of wood and cardboard, about ten feet across, and covered with paper machier, then painted white with black continents and, of course, red blood dripping all over it.  The kids came over and we made about fifty paper machier skulls, over baloons, and painted them and bloodied them too.  Pepe and Alfredo and Mary went to work on a bunch of very realistic, cardboard AK-47's.  We bloodied them too.

            Then we painted about a dozen big cardboard plackards, black with the single word, NO, in white.  It all looked very dramatic.

            I went to check out the location and talk with the people at IAGO.  Yeah, they said, good idea, do whatever you want, Bill.  I thought OK, here goes!  I was getting a little queezy.

            The day was nearing, we planned it for the 31, to make the papers on the first of November, All Saints’ Day, we hoped.  I looked at the big skull, up on the roof.  Then I looked at the door.  Much smaller than the skull, of course.  Well, we’ll lower it over the side, I thought.  Then I looked over the side.  Lots of electric wires and telephone lines everywhere.  Well, we’ll push it out from the building with poles and guide wires, I thought.  But what a job!

            Then I looked over the back of the building into the neighbors’ yard.  A clear shot straight down, and then straight out their garage doors.  So I knocked on their door and talked to the lady.  Sure, any time you like, come on over.

            It was still quite a task.  Three or four people up above and guide lines hanging down and, of course, all the neighbor kids running around getting in the way and about getting flattened by a descending monster skull.  But we made it down and out their front doors and into the rented pick-up we had hired.








            My brother, John, and his wife, Paula, happened to be in town.   They’ve come a number of times for Day of the Dead, and I always enjoy having them.  So I said, come watch us put up our altar, and they said, sure.


            Well, we had our crew, of course, and the kids from Sergio’s school and Sergio had gotten some lights and sound equipment and the sound equipment guys, of course.  The sun was just going down and it was still light when we started to set it all up.  A borrowed platform was placed in the center of the street about six feet tall, and the big skull on top of that.  Right in front of IAGO is a slight rise in the street and our death’s head really “loomed” out over the plaza in front of Santo Domingo.











            I was pretty much watching from the sidelines, conscious of being a gringo and all, and the restrictions on foreigners partaking in any political activity.  John and Paula and I sat on a nearby bench and I would occasionally send over some instructions or other, to the crew.


            The kids started piling up the bones and skulls and AK-47's.  Also, Sergio had sent a couple helpers over to the main cemetery that afternoon, to the general discard area and they had come back with four or five big, dead and faded, funeral wreathes they had found, really gory, as well as a bunch of used flowers.  Everyone had brought lots of candles.


            Slowly all this stuff was being artistically arranged around the big centerpiece.










            Well, it took forever and stuff kept falling or tilting and about to collapse, of course, and Paula kept gasping and exclaiming, “Oh...Oh, no!”

            Finally, I said, “Paula, this is not your job, to put up the altar.”

            “But, Bill, that wreathe over there is ...”

            “Paula, do you have any doubt at all that these kids are going to get the altar up just fine and in place and looking great, all night long?"

            "Well, no."

            "Good.  Look, let’s go take a break and get a bite and come back in a bit, OK?”  Of course, I was nervous too, and glad to get out of there for a while.

            So, we left the kids in charge and I said OK, make it real nice, guys.

            And they did. 






*  *  *


            We came back in about an hour or so and approached from below.

            Hundreds of candles and additional lights cast an orange glow upon the bloodied head.  Sergio had recorded sounds of gunfire and bombs, echoing against the tall buildings.  The fading funeral wreathes and bloodied arms lay on the ground.  Long lines of viewers walked silently past.

            Paula said simply, “Oh, Bill.”




*  *  *


            And, yes, we got big color photos in the papers the next day and a banner headline, “Even the Dead Say No To War.” .






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