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Galeria Zona Corazon Comes to Life
To celebrate the Day of the Dead

by Jennifer Hambrick
October 2006

Michael "Micky" Bletz died unexpectedly in late March 2008. Visit this link for the Gazette obituary

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Photos by Gus Brunsman III

Ramona Baye and Micky Bletz with their Day of the Dead Figurines.

If you’re looking for a real Hallowe’en party this year, you may want to wait two days and celebrate the Day of the Dead Nov. 2 at Galeria Zona Corazon.

In the week leading up to Nov. 2, Galeria Zona Corazon will unveil an extensive collection of authentic figurines, masks and full-body costumes to celebrate the Day of the Dead – a tribute in Hispanic countries to the living spirits of deceased loved ones. Galeria Zona Corazon owner Micky Bletz says all items are authentic Mexican Day of the Dead pieces and will remain on display and for sale at the gallery through the month of November. They also will be the main attraction on Nov. 2 in what Bletz hopes will be a bona fide bash at the gallery – an authentic Mexican Day of the Dead party, and a celebration of life itself.

The Lighter Side of Death
In Hispanic cultures, the Day of the Dead is an opportunity to honor those in the world beyond and to come face to face with the lightness of our mortality. On Oct. 30 or 31, people throughout Mexico and in other Spanish-speaking countries construct offrendas, or altars, in their homes in homage to their dead loved ones. Candles and garlands of marigolds traditionally adorn the altars. A candelabra and the deceased’s favorite foods are displayed on a special tablo, or table. Figurines that playfully conjure some aspect of the deceased’s personality hold a prominent place on the tablo and around the home.

Also On Oct. 31, All Hallows Eve, people travel to cemeteries to clean the graves of departed family. In some places, families will stay at the cemetery on the night of Oct. 31, eating picnics of the deceased’s favorite foods and burning long-burning candles to lure the spirits of the dead back to our world, if only for a brief visit.

Nov. 1 is the Catholic feast of Todos Santos, or All Saints, on which Christians traditionally honor all of the saints, especially those who have not been properly honored over the course of the previous liturgical year. All Souls’ Day falls on Nov. 2, when the Dia de Los Muertas is celebrated with Carnivalesque festivity. But unlike the Catholic feast of All Soul’s Day, in which Christians pray for the cleansing of the souls of the departed, the Day of the Dead invites them back home for a party. Many towns stage processions to and from the local cemetery in which people sport ghoulish masks and dress up like the Devil himself. But Bletz says the Devil in Day of the Dead celebrations is a far cry from the sinister worker of black magic our culture knows. On the Day of the Dead, the Devil is portrayed as a prankster, injecting fun and good-natured chaos into this greatest celebration of life.

“There’s a heavy jovial factor to all of this,” Bletz said. “The way we are, we’re so somber about everything, when it comes to the burial rite and all this. They more celebrate the death.”

The Day of the Dead at Galeria Zona Corazon
Bletz already has the Day of the Dead festivities planned for Nov. 2 at Galeria Zona Corazon, and everyone’s invited.

“We’ll set up an altar and have a festival table with food and flowers – the typical Dia de Los Muertas tablo. Everybody’s welcome to come in full garb.”

Authentic Mexican Day of the Dead figurines also will be in abundance and available for purchase. Among the several on display now at Galeria Zona Corazon are figures representing all walks of life: a six-inch figurine of a photographer holds his camera playfully before him, a dancer poses mid-twirl in red dancing shoes. The catch is that the figurines have bare skulls for heads, a reminder to us all that whatever we do in life, we are always moving toward death.

Day of the Dead figurines have come to have symbolic importance for the living who own them. In Hispanic cultures, a widower might make or purchase a figurine of a woman playing the piano in memory of his late wife, whose music he loved to listen to. A widow might display a figurine of a man with farm tools to honor her late husband, a farmer.

“They all represent your past loved ones,’ Bletz said. “It’s a representative of them in their former life.”

Also currently on display at Galeria Zona Corazon are children’s Day of the Dead items, including solid sugar skulls. In modern Day of the Dead celebrations, snow-white candy skulls embellished with colorful icing accents are put on the festive table as decorative pieces, which the kids then eat.

Although the Day of the Dead is traditionally only one day, Bletz says it will last a month this year at Galeria Zona Corazon. After the gallery’s Nov. 2 celebration, Bletz’s collection of Day of the Dead items will remain on display through the end of November.

“It will be a theme for the month of November. People will have the month to come on in.”

Galeria Zona Corazon [Store closed April 2008], 1198 N. High Street, 614-291-9453 (wild). Open Tues. - Sat. 11-7.

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