Fr. Juan Francisco Molina of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church said a prayer in remembrance of dearly departed family members, then sprinkled holy water on each of the 6 altars. The group then walked in procession to the church for a special Mass dedicated to their memory. He called Toledo a “blessed city” because of the presence of so many Latinos who honor their predecessors.
Each of the procession participants carried something that related to a lost loved one: a framed photograph, a family heirloom, or a favorite possession. Arturo Quintero, who helps each year to organize the celebration, called the Mass a “moving experience.”
“During the mass, the individual has the option of taking that memento in front of the altar and addressing why that memento is key to them and why they want to honor that loved one,” he said.
‘This started more than 3,000 years ago with the indigenous Americans in Mexico. When the aborigines were conquered and subdued by the invading Spaniards, the Conquistadores attempted to quash it, to abolish this whole concept. Inevitably, they discovered that the native Indians were not going to give this up, so the Catholic Church got on board and connected with the religious beliefs and incorporated it into their religious beliefs.’
Día de los Muertos used to be a month-long celebration, which, in recent years, has been shortened to a one-to-three day event, depending on what part of the U.S. it takes place.
This is the 16th year SQACC Día de los Muertos celebration, which also serves as a major fundraiser for the center. Last year the center’s board honored the first Latino families to settle in the Toledo area. This year’s dinner and dance were held at the Believe Center, which is the former Aurora González Center.
A traditional Mexican dinner was served, prepared by Chef José Carlos Mendez of O.K. Patrón in Perrysburg. Guests also were entertained by Toledo’s Mariachi Lagos, El Corazón de México Ballet Folkórico, and the University of Toledo Latin Jazz Ensemble. Tony Rios of Voces Latinas and El Lobo Radio Show provided the sound. Angi González of WNWO TV was the MC.
For the first time, SQACC honored the lives of three people who had a major impact on the Toledo and Latino art and cultural scene: Edith Franklin, Alberto Flores, and Charlie Weaver. All three icons of the Latino community passed away within the past year. An altar in their memories was dedicated at the celebration.
“He has always been a pillar of the Latino community,” Quintero said of Weaver. “He was instrumental in the development of the Latino club, Latins United/Latinos Unidos. They provided Christmas gifts for children, they provided food baskets for the needy for Thanksgiving. Dozens of quinceañeras have been held there. It is just one of the focal points for the Latino community.”
Ms. Franklin, even though she was not of Latino origin, was honored for her past efforts with SQACC in connecting Latino art and culture with the community-at-large, especially through the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
“Edith was very instrumental in working with the Quintero Center, an avid supporter of the center,” Quintero said. “She had a lot of connections with the Mexican art community and indigenous artists. Edith tirelessly worked with us and attended a lot of our events and assisted with the planning of events. We certainly believe she was a part of our community and we sorely miss her.”
Alberto Flores was honored because of his long-time involvement as a teacher, especially in the Latino community. Of Puerto Rican descent, Flores helped set up Spanish language discussion groups at SQACC, so Latinos could continue to converse in their native language to keep those skills sharp by practicing with other Latinos.
“We do not have as much of an opportunity to practice our Spanish as much as we normally would if we lived in Mexico [or Spanish-speaking countries],” explained Quintero. “He set it up as a friendly venue and helped maintain that program. We would do book club reviews and discuss national issues. It gave the Spanish speakers who wanted to meet a nice, safe place to come in and conduct those conversations.”
The altars will remain on exhibit at the Quintero Center for one more weekend. The public can visit the Center on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11, 2012, from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment.
“It gives the public a window on the culture of the Latinos and hopefully implants in them the whole concept of why Día de los Muertos is important to the Hispanic community and why we want to honor our [departed loved ones] and connect with our deceased,” explained Quintero. “It’s not Halloween. It is not anything other than wanting to maintain our heritage and continue our heritage generation after generation.”