Light the Way for the Spirits of the Ancestors (2019)

Melanie Cervantes
8-Layer Handmade Screen Print includes metallic ink colors in the skin and earring, Coventry Rag 100% cotton archival paper, 290gsm
Printed at Self Help Graphics by Oscar Duardo and Andi Xoch, Boyle Heights, CA, September 2019
Edition of 60

I am the commemorative print artist for Self Help’s 2019 Dia de los Muertos exhibit. In recent years Hollywood movies have used Dia de los Muertos as visual set dressing or telling stories outside of the context of our communities. At several major retailers Dia de los Muertos sections are tucked in between Halloween candies and crafts and often conflated or used interchangeably.

So when thinking about what rituals and symbols are central and important for me I decided to use the cempasuchil which is given as an ofrenda on altares and in cemeteries. I also hinted at papel picado around the edge of the print. The lighting of the candles to guide the spirits of the ancestors home is a reflection of a larger worldview that understands the connection between our lives and corporeal bodies and the spirits of the ones who came before us. This is why Dia de los Muertos has always moved me deeply…because it opens space for us to come together and remember communally. And that remembering is one of the most revolutionary acts against the forced amnesia that is often imposed on our communities by systems that benefit from the violence of forgetting.