Karina Moreno: Yo Soy Mis Muertos

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Today marks the last day of Día de los Muertos, and Karina Moreno celebrates by honoring the loved ones she embodies.

Lots of people enjoy this time of the year because of the rain on scorched earth, the crisp air, the sunset-colored leaves, or the pumpkin-flavored everything, seemingly sold everywhere.

But for me, it’s all about Mis Muertos.

Día de los Muertos is a time to honor our ancestors, an active appreciation of the ways people we love continue to shape us, even after they die. Especially when they die.

I’ve always enjoyed the ritual of building an altar – displaying photographs just so, situating candles amidst bright orange marigolds and calaveras, and the purposeful ‘ofrendas’ selected with special care – in my case, Dodgers swag for my Tata, a bottle of Chilean wine for my friend Emilia, an Almond Joy chocolate bar for my mom.

My mom on my altar. This is the third year she’s there.

She died in April 2019 after eight long years with Alzheimer’s. I never thought I’d reach the point where thinking of her would make me smile instead of cry.

It happened in the cliché “I have become my mother” experience so familiar to those of us in middle age.

I was hiking the golden hills above Oakland, trails she loved and traversed all her life. I turned the corner to watch the fire-tinged sun set over the San Francisco Bay, and it struck me that her coping mechanisms have become my own, especially during this tumultuous time: hiking these hills, adopting a dog, soaking in the tub, getting lost in a book.

I recognize her in the not-so-healthy outlets too, like the occasional overconsumption of news and wine.

I have her dark, arched eyebrows and petite posture, but also her neurotic worry for my teenage children and the state of our world.

This is the truth about our muertos: they are us, we are them.

With a Perspective, I’m Karina Moreno.

Karina Moreno works for a charitable foundation in San Francisco.