Thursday, November 1, 2012

Luis Urrea Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

From Hopeless Situations, Miracles Happen
Before Luis Urrea’s reading, there was a Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos event in the UA Bookstore, MC’d by my academic-compa Kathryn Ortiz. The event included altars from Dr. Cintli’s upper-division Mexican American Studies students, a mariachi performance by an elementary school group, and a folklorico dance put on by UA’s ballet folklorico group.
I had the chance to speak with Urrea—he signed my copy of The Devil's Highway and I apologized that there were notes I’d taken inside of it, but I explained that I’d taken part in the summer Banned Book club. He then recounted when he had first heard of the proposed book ban years ago when a news reporter asked him about Tom Horne's desire to ban Ethnic Studies, and Urrea's complete disbelief.
Urrea began by professing to be a “proud veteran of Mexican American Studies.” He commented that in California, where he studied, they don’t experience the same scrutiny as in Arizona, but the MAS program he participated in produced “countless authors, PhDs and scholars.”
He read from Nobody's Son , which was published by UA Press, so he was bringing it home to read. Urrea explained that while he lived for some time in Tucson, he was nomadic enough that he was leary to talk about Arizona or on behalf of Arizona, though Arizona gave him his “best books.”
On the Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos when honoring ancestors, he remembered all of the people who have gone before him: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and several of his nephews and cousins who were gone—and he’d be damned if someone regarded any of them as less than human, or stopped them in the street to question them about their citizenship, or tell them that they couldn’t study about their culture.
From Nobody's Son , Urrea read a passage about moving from Tijuana as a child with skin problems and had no place to go while his parents worked, and being raised in the home of two of his female relatives who he described in rich and humorous detail. 
Urrea described the time as hopeless, however adding that when the  “situation was hopeless, that’s when miracles happen.”
He explained the differences in the worlds of his home and that of the relatives who cared for him, watched La Jesse in their soap operas, and made tortillas by hand. In the description of these homes and love, Urrea explained that there was a particular “way a family shares one bathroom that says love.”

Read my past post on Urrea:

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