Día de Muertos: Coronavirus Piñata and Storefront Altar

ReclaMisión engaged several artists to create storefront windows and street altars in the Mission for 2020 Día de Muertos. I proposed to Acción Latina to take over their window. They graciously allowed me to do so. The storefront installation prominently features the number of our unknown beloved departed who have died of COVID-19 in our City: 145 on October 30th. As of this posting, 156, in the midst of a climbing surge in cases.

In the tradition of seven point piñatas, the points represent the seven deadly sins, which once bashed to pieces, reveal graces (candy, sometimes money for kids). I took this in to make a piñata that represented the ills of the world, the racial inequities driving so much suffering.

I made my multi-pointed piñata over a month long period. The first layers were made with El Tecolote newspapers featuring the stories of the Black Lives Matter movement and the homicide by police of Sean Monterrosa, that took place during the surging Latinx COVID-19 pandemic in the City that has disproportionately impacted our community. The second layers were made in the traditional fashion with colored tissue paper (which in Mexico is called papel de china, perhaps a reference to a type of paper originally from China?). The choice of colors was inspired by a medical diagram of the coronavirus, included in this post. The result was a large, colorful, multi-spiked piñata.

The storefront window was painted from the inside with chalk paint markers to ensure easy removal later. (This means I had to write all lettering backwards from the inside! Sometimes I had a stencil to help me, sometimes I free-handed.) The installation ended up having a day look and a night look. When the sun was brightly shining, the lettering was visible and prominent. In the evening, the lit interior took over, inviting passersby to stop and look inside.

The lettering further referenced the COVID-19 Latinx pandemic, and also informed passersby about a statistical fact: Though the majority of people who test sick with Covid are 40 years and younger, the vast majority who die are 70 years and over.

Inside, the piñata floated, illuminated from above and below by a cluster of white and red round paper lanterns. It was rather cozy inside, but the piñata and the cluster though beautiful to observe, still represented the danger of socializing indoors.

The installation has concluded, but now, I have to decide what should the piñata be filled with, and who should break it?

Should it be our elders who break the piñata, Asian and Latinx elders disproportionately impacted by deaths?

Should it be the families of Black and Brown victims of police shootings?

Should we have members of the Latinx essential workforce who have helped carry this City through the pandemic, bearing the brunt of the disease? Perhaps the volunteers at the Mission Food Hub should be the ones two destroy it?

Should we fill the piñata with poetry for these times? Inviting our multi-racial communities to toss in a word or two?

What grace should come out of the coronavirus piñata?