From the Mexican Heritage Center in Stockton, CA:
The Death of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – R.I.P.
(Save the Delta – Stop the Tunnels!)
Day of the Dead altars (ofrendas) are built to honor the lives of those who have passed. This alter is designed to honor the life of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and caution of its possible demise if the proposed diversion tunnels are built and water is diverted under, rather than through the Delta.
A replica of La Llorona is placed in the center of this alter or ofrenda because her legend is a cautionary tale. La Llorona, in a fit of rage, turned against her children, threw them in the river, and the children disappeared down-stream. When the Llorona realized what she had done, she reached out her arms to her children, but it was too late — the children were gone. La Llorona walks up and down the banks of the river crying, “Where are my children?” We must heed the warnings and not become the Llorona. We cannot throw the fresh water of the rivers away from the Delta. If we do, the Delta will become a salty cesspool and we will not be able to reach out and restore the damage we have done. We will be walking down the salty banks of the rivers looking for the native birds, fish, plants, and crops, crying, “Where is the Delta?”
This ofrenda has traditional elements, but the elements relate to the Delta:
The Llorona is created out of flower pots, which represent over a half million acres of rich fertile soils in the Delta used for growing a wide range of vegetables, grains, and fruit crops.
Instead of the traditional Marigolds, there are flower pots filled with crops that are grown in the Delta and the flower pots are painted with skulls. Also, there are baskets filled with fruits grown in the Delta to represent Earth.
The table cloth is blue (representing the water) with fish prints. The Delta’s longfin smelt, salmon, and striped bass will be adversely affected by reduced freshwater flows and saltwater intrusion, so, the prints appear to be fading away.
There are two “Retablos” (the tri-folds) which depict the animals and vegetation which will be adversely affected by the diversion tunnels.
Ice Candles (fire) with holes symbolize the hollow space the tunnels will leave in the Delta estuary.
On the river (table cloth) there are wire skeletons portraying recreational activities that occur in the Delta such as fishing, skiing, and boating.
Typically, the salt on the ofrenda represents life. However, in this case, the salt represents the intrusion of seawater into the Delta, which will eventually cause the death of the Delta.
The “papel picado” (perforated paper) represents the wind and is attached to the hem of the table cloth. We used black, purple, and white. Black represents death, purple stands for grief, and white symbolizes the hope that the tunnels will not be built and that the Delta estuary will be saved.
The giant fish is pleading for its life asking us to Save the Delta — Stop the Tunnels!
Kohl Open School, Grades 4-8
Stockton Unified School District