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Retired educator revives Día de los Muertos songs for children

Longtime educator Stanley Lucero played Day of the Dead songs he grew up with in New México during a celebration for children at the Fresno County Central Library.
Longtime educator Stanley Lucero played Day of the Dead songs he grew up with in New México during a celebration for children at the Fresno County Central Library. jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Retired bilingual educator Stanley A. Lucero was right at home last Saturday morning at the Fresno County Main Library.

Backed by his trusty jarana segunda, guitar, and, ukulele and armed by a collection of songs from his childhood in New México, Lucero entertained about a dozen children and their parents with songs related to Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

The children, some of which were decked in Halloween attire, recognized the ‘Coco’ song ‘Remember Me’ (‘Recuérdame’) but not the other songs like ‘Las Brujas’ (‘The Witches’) or ‘La Llorona’ (‘The Crying Woman’).

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Lexi Campos and her aunt, Irene Campos, participate in the Day of the Dead celebration at the Fresno County Central Library. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Día de los Muertos is actually observed Nov. 1 and 2, with today set aside as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). It is believed that on this day, the infants and children who have died return to visit their family.

Nov. 2 is known as All Soul’s Day when adults who have died return to find ofrendas (altars), sugar skulls, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), marigolds and things he or she held dear to them. That includes a favorite drink or favorite food.

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A boy and his father engage in affection during a Day of the Dead celebration for children at the Fresno County Main Library. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Lucero’s presence at the library was to help introduce the growing holiday to children who most likely know about Miguel Rivera and his search for his great-great-grandfather in the Oscar-winning movie ‘Coco.’

“It’s a time of year we remember our family,” said Lucero, who quickly launched into the English and Spanish versions of the main song from ‘Coco.’

As he introduced newer songs, Lucero explained the meaning and invited the audience to sing along.

La Llorona,’ he thought, was limited to New México until he moved to California and discovered the song was also played here.

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A girl dressed as a bee participates in the Day of the Dead celebration at the Fresno County Central Library. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

“I’ve found her in Colombia,” said Lucero, who has collected about 20 different verses of the song about the woman who mourns for the children she drowned in a river. Or a lake. Or an ocean.

“My mother, my aunts and other women have her name: María,” said Lucero.

The Day of the Dead tunes, said Lucero, are generally “slow, sad songs.”

However, there were exceptions like ‘Mi Carrito’ (‘My Little Cart’) and ‘Mi Gallo’ (‘My Rooster’).

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