Threading the Life of a Mayan

SOMARTS, Day of the Dead, Altar installation with José Góngora Pat and his family, and Paz de la Calzada, Oct.-Nov. 2016

The following description is an excerpt from “Threading the Life of a Mayan”.

Threaded altar

By nature, thread tangles. This year for Day of the Dead in San Francisco, Jose and I worked alongside artist Paz de la Calzada on threading an altar for Luis Demetrio Gongora Pat at SOMArts. We dyed a giant spool of cotton thread in my home into various colors. Once dried, Jose adeptly untangled the thread by applying his hammock weaving skills to the task, creating coils to work with later.

During our installation, Jose would pass along untangled thread, and Paz and I would gently stitch the thread to the embroidered text on two Day of the Dead altar cloths. Both altar cloths were handmade in the Mayan mestizo tradition by Luis’ cousin Luli, with religious iconography and the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased embroidered on.

The text on the altar cloths reads, “Honor and Justice for Luis Gongora Pat.” A protest was embedded in her artwork. We strung our threads from the protest text on the altar cloths to the embroidered textile of the cardinal hipil; linking worded protest to the handwork of the Mayan women of Teabo. Theirs is a story of Mayan honor, a demand for respect from a humble indigenous family that was forced to suffer migration.