Savvy Fuego

Savvy Fuego - Greyhound from Caliente, Mexico

Savvy Fuego – Greyhound from Caliente, Mexico

My college class is currently reading about globalization. One of the points that comes up throughout the textbooks and the discussion on globalization is whether globalization is leading to McDonaldization, the Americanization/Westernization of other cultures, or to Hybridization, the intermingling and synthesis of different elements. Jan Nederveen Pieterese in his book Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange argues for “viewing globalization as a process of hybridization that gives rise to global mélange” (65).

So the words hybrid and hybridization have come up often in the last few weeks in class discussions and readings. The word hybrid also started a previous blog post about the mixing of cultures I observed in myself. So I thought it was fitting that the newest member to the household is also a hybrid. He was chosen for me by an adoption agency based on my lifestyle and personality and the household he would be part of; this adoption/matching process has worked extremely well for me in the past with my last two dogs, so I do not question it. And it has worked well again. The newest member to the household is a former racing greyhound adopted through Greyhound Friends for Life.

Savvy Fuego and Power Home

Savvy Fuego and Power Home

Not only does his personality fit the rest of the household members, but he even fits the current class discussion on hybrids! Even his name shows hybridization: Savvy Fuego – part English, part Spanish. I do not know where he was born and raised, but he raced first in Arkansas and then was moved to the race track in Caliente, Mexico, where he spent most of his career. After retiring, he was moved to California by the adoption agency. He has no problem with the heat, loves the sun, perks up when he hears male voices speaking Spanish, and seems to love Mariachi music [at least he gets excited when he hears it]. Savvy Fuego – another hybrid in a household that illustrates cultural mélange.

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Rabbit with Attitude

Example of Alebrije, Oaxacan-Mexican Folk Art - Artist: Max Arrazol

Example of Alebrije, Oaxacan-Mexican Folk Art – Artist: Max Arrazol

 

One of the advantages of living in California is the opportunity to experience many examples of Mexican culture. The most obvious example is Mexican food, but there is also the opportunity to meet Mexican artists. A friend hosted an artist, who showcased her pieces at a local community college. The art form is called Alebrijes, colorful wooden sculptures of mostly animals. The figurines are hand-carved out of copal wood, and then handpainted with intricate patterns in bright colors.

Example of Alebrije, Oaxacan-Mexican Folk Art Artists: Alma and Saul Aragon

Example of Alebrije, Oaxacan-Mexican Folk Art
Artists: Alma and Saul Aragon

The artist visiting from Oaxaca was Alma Arreoala; she paints the pieces that her husband, Saul Aragon, carves. As part of her presentation on her art, spectators also had the opportunity to paint their own pieces, and I experienced firsthand how difficult those small patterns are. I love the eye to detail, the bright colors, and the fantasy behind the color and pattern choices. And I love the energy portrayed in the carvings – I chose the rabbit because of the attitude it displays with its flowing ears seemingly dancing in the wind.

Examples of Mexican Art Form Alebrijes

Examples of Mexican Art Form Alebrijes

Unpainted Carved Figurines Ready to Be Turned into Painted Alebrijes - Carved by Saul Aragon

Unpainted Carved Figurines Ready to Be Turned into Painted Alebrijes – Carved by Saul Aragon

Half-Painted Example of Mexican Art Form Alebrijes

Half-Painted Example of Mexican Art Form Alebrijes

 

Dia de los Muertos

Dancers  with Face Painting and in Costume at Dia de los Muertos

Dancers in Costume at Dia de los Muertos

Even though Halloween is not one of my favorite American holidays, and I honestly do not “get it,” I can understand and connect to the Latin American tradition of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It reminds me of the Austrian tradition of thinking of those that passed and visiting the graves on November 1. As far back as I can remember, November 1 has meant spending the morning in usually cold and foggy graveyards and wearing the new winter coat for the first time of the year. November 1 is a holiday in Austria, and since schools, offices, and stores are closed, there is no excuse not to be at the graves of those who have passed. For weeks, graves have been prepped for the big day with new plantings and freshly cut flowers, a new lantern, and of course plenty of candles. The graveyard on that day turns also into a place to meet up with everyone who has moved away since each grave is usually surrounded by family and friends even from far away.

Cards to the Dead on Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento, CA

Cards to the Dead on Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento, CA

Altar at Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento

Altar at Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento

Statue at Dia de los Muertos Celebrations

Statue at Dia de los Muertos Celebrations

 

This is a tradition that is very foreign to most Americans; they do not really seem to spend much time at graveyards. But the Latin American holiday of Dia de los Muertos has the same basic principle – to honor the dead. True, the Austrian celebration on All Saints Day is a little more somber and quieter, but the idea is the same. Dia de los Muertos honors the dead with festivals and celebrations of the lives of the deceased with food, drink, and parties. Families set up altars for the deceased in their houses; photos, favorite foods and drinks, pan de muerto, marigolds and more are placed on the altars. Families celebrate  with food in graveyards and decorate the graves. The deceased become part of the community again as they are awakened from their sleep.

Dancers at the Dia de Los Muertos in Sacramento, CA

Dancers at the Dia de Los Muertos in Sacramento, CA

Since Sacramento, CA is so diverse, celebrations of Dia de los Muertos have become quite common. This year’s celebrations included many altars set up by families for the deceased as well as a parade and performances of traditional Mexican dances. It was not quite the same for me as visiting the graves of loved ones on All Saints Day in Austria, but I felt more at home at this celebration than I ever do on Halloween with its costumes and sweets.

Close-Up of Altar at Dia de los Muertos

Close-Up of Altar at Dia de los Muertos

Parade at Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento

Parade at Dia de los Muertos in Sacramento