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The Spirit of Día de los Muertos Artist Spotlight: Laura E. Contreras-Alanís

Words from the Artist

Through this installation, my hope is that you have taken a little bit of our culture back with you. I hope it may have inspired you to learn more about these migrants than what you watch on television, hear on the radio, or see on your social media feeds.

If you would like more information, I encourage you to visit:

I am a native of Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico who immigrated to the USA with my family in 1974. I grew up in California and moved to Knoxville in 2003. I am married, have three boys and two girls and soon to be eight grandchildren!

I was first introduced to the plight of the undocumented immigrant in the grape fields of California in the mid 70’s, as my family was part of this group. I have always had a strong desire to help the Latino community overcome obstacles that I have already dealt with, whether that was through personal experience or through the people I’ve encountered or my training.

I am a full time Spanish Language Interpreter at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and I am also the HomeOwnership Center Manager at HomeSource East Tennessee. Both of these jobs allow me to continue helping my community navigate life in this country and I am always advocating for immigrant rights.

The Kite

I took inspiration from the Guatemalan community through the kite. In the sections of the kite you will find a casita (small house) by the side of the river. The river represents the Rio Grande. The casita invokes the idea of immigrants dreaming of making the journey across the river, whether to the United States or back to the homeland of their heritage.

On the kite overhead, you will see a section depicting a cross and another that shows a sun. The cross is symbolic of faith and the sun is symbolic of our Aztec roots. The different colors and patterns represent the different peoples.

The night sky with the cempasuchil (marigolds) represent the traditional offering in the night. The souls traveling through the sky show those waiting in purgatory, unable to cross into the land

of the living or dead.

The sugar skulls represent the traditional décor used in the beloved celebration of Día de los Muertos. The butterflies represent the state of Michoacán, where the Day of the Dead is commonly celebrated, and some believe that when we die, we become butterflies.

The Altar

The frame is represents my view through this window. Three brightly colored crosses atop come from the Salvadorean custom of having their crosses brightly painted for their dead during Día de los Muertos.

The red wire is the blood that runs through us all, equally. The different colored clothes pins signify the different people, young, old, willing, not willing, white, brown,

black, straight, not straight, educated, un-educated, rich, poor… so many cross the border. The picture frames sit empty because we don’t know these faces, yet their lives matter just the same.

On the floor are the things left behind in the chase, forgotten, or discarded. They provide a glimpse of the people they once belonged to.

If you would like more information visit: