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Arts & Culture

Born From ‘The Children Of The Revolución,’ An Artistic Exploration Of Life

You may think the ‘Day of the Dead’ as a celebration around Halloween, but at the Texas A&M Cultural  Arts Center in San Antonio, an exhibit is drawing new attention. I took a tour with its creator. Deborah A. Cortez helps run her family’s Mi Tierra restaurant at Market Square in San Antonio, but she’s also an artist who created this ‘Day of the Dead’ exhibit.

“The exhibit is a story of The Children of the Revolución, which was originally put together by Lionel and Kathy Sosa.”

Children was an 11-part TV series about Mexican families who fled the Mexican Revolution around 1910, and set down roots in San Antonio. This exhibit was born out of that series.

“It is the story of the Children of the Revolución expressed in a very sacred and cultural language of Dia de Los Muertos.”

That language is the language of the altar created by those left behind in celebration of those who have passed. This altar is huge.

“It’s about thirty-five and a half feet by twelve feet tall, and comes out at about twenty-five feet in depth.”

It’s divided into four main parts, three of which are shaped like pyramids. Within those pyramids individual families are represented. Families many San Antonians know — the Cisneros, the Castros, the Romos, the Brisenos.

“It is put together with probably thousands of various elements.”

And by elements, she means family photographs, a guitar, a baby doll, candles, newspaper stories, pinto beans, a toy train car, a bottle of tequila.  The items all tell the stories of the people being remembered.  

“So it kind of personifies them, or a part of their story.”

The single biggest and most hallowed part of the exhibit overlooks the entire thing.

“The central figure on the back wall is the Virgen de Guadalupe.” 

“I always place the Virgen de Guadalupe on any altar that I do, because she represents love and compassion, and a guiding light.”

There are a pair of seated skeletons dressed as if to be married — can you tell us about that?

“That is the story of Love in the Time of Revolution. They had such a beautiful and loving story.”    

She’s talking about the Josefina and Jimmie Briseno. 

“His mother came from Mexico City as a child of the revolution, and meets up with this Tejano that she falls in love with.”

To "protect" her, her father moved Josefina back to Mexico City.

Of course, her father was hoping that that would break the intensity of their bond, so to speak.”

Seven years of separation couldn’t keep them from marriage though. In the altar, the groom is represented by a skeleton, and has a piece of paper with a hole in it sticking out of his pocket. A very important piece of paper, because the hole was his future bride’s exact ring size.

"She was still in Mexico and he needed to know the ring size. And she made this hole on a piece of paper and sent it to him. He kept it in his wallet ‘til the day he died and they ended up being married 62 years.”

There are many other moving stories in this exhibit about the Children of the Revolución. And Cortez says visitors are often inspired to reflect on their own family’s histories.

"It has almost become, almost like sitting in one’s living room having tamales and hot chocolate and just sharing stories."

Cortez says it’s become a starting place for families to reclaim their past, and perhaps even create their own altars.

"That, that is timeless."

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