After processing through the streets of South Philly, following the rhythmic beats on an indigenous drum, we finally arrived at Fleisher. There was a large crowd already mingling on the sidewalk in front of the closed doors. Some were munching on elotes, others stood in line for tacos, and others chatted about the costumed dancers or looked out from painted faces.
The preparation for the Día de los muertos procession and the subsequent celebration inside the building, had begun at least a month before. The previous year I had joined the holiday at the doors of Fleisher, where I waited for the procession and marveled at the life sized skeletal figures that had been created. Seeing the altar inside was the highlight. Here are some photos from this year’s altar:
This year I wanted to be more involved so I participated in the paper flower making workshop on a weekend early in October. Resident artist, Claudia Peregrina, originally from Mexico, taught and guided us in making the paper flowers from coffee filters. The ages of the participants ranged from four to seventy. Some spoke Spanish, some spoke English. Children especially, were excited to be able to make a mess, so they volunteered to dip the paper flowers in the dye, while most adults cut wires, folded paper and put together the flowers. I don’t know how many I made over 7-8 hours that weekend, but it was a lot. I was dismissed early on the second day to go home and rest.
Since I had spent so much time helping make the flowers that would decorate the altar and the gateway to it, I wanted to do more than just wait at the door. This year I met the procession at its stop at the Italian Market. When I heard the drums and other instruments and saw the group led by a police car escort I got goosebumps and a rush of adrenaline. For quite a while we slowly meandered through the streets of Philly, delighting in the sights and sounds and the overall sensation of joy and gratitude for the chance to remember those who lived before in spirit walked with us.