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La Ofrenda How Sacred Space Creates Connection
Ofelia Esparza and Rosanna Ahrens Esparza
Chicana visual artists, Ofelia Esparza (b.1932) and Rosanna Esparza Ahrens (b.1961), are master altaristas (altar makers) born and raised in East Los Angeles, CA. Ofelia is highly recognized for her Day of the Dead ofrendas (altars/shrines), which have been shown nationally and internationally since 1979. Her work celebrates her spirituality and Indigenous heritage from the Purepecha culture of Southern Guanajuato, Mexico. A great portion of her work honors womanhood, and reflects the spirituality found in nature and in the dignity of the people around her. Informed by her mother’s altar-making traditions, Esparza’s ofrendas, for Day of the Dead, and Nacimientos (nativity scenes), became integral in her art curriculum at City Terrace Elementary School, where she taught for 30 years and retired in 1999. Her role as educator extended beyond the classroom and into her community; she sees herself as a cultural facilitator, through her ofrenda-building. She is a 2018 National Heritage Fellow with National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).
When creating an ofrenda – we are creating a sacred space. This space reflects what is known – a confidence. It represents identity (personal, emotional and cultural). The ofrenda offers CONNECTION, to understanding the struggles, sacrifices, creativity, resourcefulness, and wisdom of the ancestors. The ofrenda informs our resiliency and creativity, bringing forth the wisdom to this time, this place and this community with dignity and an empowered energy, fortifying the mental health of our Community.
In our workshop, students will come together with stories of their own ancestors along with photos, poems, writings and other personal mementos to contribute to the community ofrenda. We will discuss how this practice of storytelling creates bridges that foster healing through the dignity of our histories.
Mariachi Voz de America
Chicano Latino Student Affairs CLSA Co-Sponsor
Intercollegiate Department of Chicanx Latinx Studies
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