Steve Prefontaine

October 24, 2010 by staff 

Steve Prefontaine, I have visited many cemeteries that dot the American landscape as placid pastures, solemn remembrance and quiet, including the grounds sacred battlegrounds of the Civil War marked with white crosses with the bayonets and guns, chewing grass and men, dusty, unkempt plots pioneered by earthquakes or invasion of the suburbs, and the crypts of mossy stone of New Orleans is coming from the magnolia trees and the ghosts of the trams. To understand my roots, I visited my grandparents buried itself in the outer limits of Chicago, where around a pond shining majestic former Nobel Prize winners, vice presidents, and mayors. I touched the graves of my grandparents resting on a rural stretch, rich in central Wisconsin, not far from his farm, now grown by the Amish.

None of these, however, prepared me for my return to Houston, Texas, a city surrounded by freeways, where Mexican-Americans hold memorial graveside colors in honor of the dead in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon sensibility . To critics, these places may seem no more than an untamed landscape of trinkets and trash. For Mexican-Americans, who represent in good spiritual environments, perhaps “memory sites”, to quote Pierre Nora (“Between Memory and History:. Les lieux de mémoire” Representations, 1989), which offset Holly Everett folklorist it described as the banality and neglect of the sacred in the big cities, modern (road crossings in the Memorial of Contemporary Culture, 2002).

Such Mexican traditions survive without reservations in places like the Hollywood Cemetery on the north side of Houston, located between Interstate 45 on the ramp and flood-prone Little White Oak Bayou, which borders the property. Founded in 1895, contains 22,000 graves, including the Confederate spy and founder of the Mollie Bailey Circus (“Circus Queen of the South”), the Japanese immigrants who introduced the cultivation of rice in Southeast Texas in 1900, and first librarian of the city.

Like a few other cemeteries in the city bordering wetlands, parts of the area under cultivation are high, even hills. Although the majority of whites and Asians cemetery stones remaining 15 meters above the water level in the rows of granite geometric painted by the sun, along with several tombs decorated Hispanic (usually flowers and ceramics), sites that appear more Hispanics clearly in vernacular house with crosses, a group of synthetic and natural foliage, and low-cost memories of pop culture are sometimes placed on plots of mud, beneath your own world not as private as a strong reminder ” difference “in a city not yet seamlessly integrated and open. In a city where many Hispanics support the hard manual labor, working in low wage service industry, and the constant threat of deportation, this is the neighborhood of the dead.

Death is a sad fact, but normal for poor people in rural areas, says Barbara Younoszai, professor of Spanish at Hamline University (St. Paul, Minnesota). The rituals surrounding death to demonstrate their understanding of life as a cycle. Malnutrition, poor health care, and risks of menial labor and threatening physical constant, therefore, is no stranger death, death is a constant. They are familiar with it. As the famous Mexican writer Octavio Paz said, the Mexican “… after being persecuted, mocking, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with her, is her favorite toy and his most lasting love.” This fact does not diminish their sense of loss, but provides them with survival skills, including a sense of perseverance, persistence and hope.

Their religiosity leads them to accept life as a transitional phase. You can be generous and rewarding, or short and painful, but it is temporary and a path to heaven. Since the death is natural and inevitable, “Death is all in the scheme of things,” suggests Younoszai (“Mexican American perspectives related to death.” Ethnic variations in dying, death and grief. Diversity in universality, 1993 .) Moreover, the current Mexican and Mexican-Americans emphasize the continuity between the living and the dead, expressed through rituals and elements that blur the boundaries between the sacred and the secular.

Filled with fruit, soda cans, ceramic figurines, plastic tassels, stuffed animals, even hang shirts, the “neighborhood” of Hollywood Cemetery is full of vivid, convergent and often specific holiday ornaments. Peaking in the quantity and color in early winter, you can glimpse of Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Christmas and trinkets converged around each grave. Meanwhile, Anglo sections maintain a kind of gray are everywhere – the somber tone of the ceremony, and stoicism – that seems to emphasize a sense of decency, calmness, and moderation. Some could easily relate this to the Protestant traditionalism. The sites are mostly “clean” and free of decoration vernacular beyond flowers and an occasional item as a vase or small ceramic figurine.

The year-round decoration of the graves of Mexico is related to the shrines path described by folklorist Daniel Wojcik. Pre Rock, a memorial in honor of local and Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine in Eugene, Oregon, visitors pay tribute to a hero, leaving behind special items. Although some residents may consider informal site (marked by a stone made by state prisoners by prison) as messy, full of items ranging from shoes, lucky socks, and wristbands for the graffiti, water bottles sports drink award ribbons and medals, and photographs – those who come to the rocky area at the bend of the shadow of the experience of a road, a particular place … to be in communion with the dead “(” Pre Rock: Pilgrammage, rituals, and runners “Traditions in
Sanctuary on the road to Steve Prefontaine. “Shrines and Pilgrimages in contemporary culture
Company: new routes in the Sacred, 2008). Objects mean a sense of inspiration, protection, guidance and gratitude. simple mass-marketed products, and knowledge has become posthumously Prefontaine mark as a major commercial pop icon for Nike, will not stain the sanctity of the place.

Wojcik reminds us that even in environments makeshift memorial are the heart and cultural importance, expressing “basic principles” and “common items” (2008). pilgrimage sites also invite participation and encourage popular events. tomb traditions embody similar traits. “Our mother died three years ago,” said Lopez’s sisters. “We go to his grave every holiday like Valentine’s Day. We put the cards. My niece writes a letter to her stuffed animal. We put a wind chime for it. We are connecting more. We are sad to know that we are celebrating a holiday and you’re not with us, so we take the case to them. It is a way of coping. They still form part of the family. ”

The survival of pilgrimage and burial traditions and current practices would link Mexico and the United States to an era before the Spanish conquest of Mexico itself. Catholic property built some rituals and pre-Columbian Aztecs, including the placement of food for the dead in mass graves on the Day of the Dead days of rituals, some dating back 3,000 years in which Mexicans participate in the family alters long-building practices in their homes and mock death with sugar skulls (symbols of death and rebirth) and skull masks known as skeletons. These traditions have flourished in America and although unlike Mexico, some schools may offer prizes to the school to decorate the graves imagined, as they did for my student Magda Herrera, Monterrey, who once created his own Frida Kahlo serious version.

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