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An Aztec celebration in Garden Home

The Sempoashochitl Festival, in honor and celebration of Día de los Muertos and the glories of the marigold, brings a whirl of traditional dance, art, music and remembrance.

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Traditional Purépucha dancing indigenous to Mexico was a highlight of Saturday's Sempoashochitl Festival in Garden Home. Photo: Joe Cantrell.
Traditional Purépucha dancing indigenous to Mexico was a highlight of Saturday’s Sempoashochitl Festival in Garden Home.

PHOTOGRAPHS by JOE CANTRELL


It was all about the marigolds and the music and the dancing and a whole lot more on Saturday afternoon and early evening at the second annual Sempoashochitl Festival, a free gathering at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District’s Garden Home Recreation Center.

Sempoashochitl, or Cempoalxóchitl, is the marigold, often known in Aztecan and other Mexican cultures as flor de muertos, or flower of the dead, and associated with Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a time of both remembrance and celebration.

Saturday’s festival, organized by Anahuac Wellness and Art Center with support from the Park & Recreation Center, was definitely both of those things. Photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand to catch the festivities, which included a traditional tianguis, the market or bazaar of Mexico and Central America; a Dia de los Muertos altar; a tapetes de ánimas, or temporary carpet of flowers; free tamales with marigold flower, and tea bags “to teach the therapeutic and nutritional uses of the flower”; and artworks and pre-Hispanic music.

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And of course, that Meshica-Tolteca dancing. A dance of death? Perhaps. A dance of life? Indeed. A dance of mystery and mortality and beauty and tradition and love? All of those things, and more. It was that kind of a day.

— The Editors

The Dance

A young dancer seems about to take flight ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
A young dancer seems about to take flight …
... traditional regalia and movement go together in the dance ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… traditional regalia and movement go together in the dance …
... birds of a feather flock together in an elaborate headdress ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… birds of a feather flock together in an elaborate headdress …
... a whirl of motion and emotion ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… a whirl of motion and emotion …
... intense concentration ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… intense concentration …
... and a smile of satisfaction and happiness. Photo: Joe Cantrell
… and a smile of satisfaction and happiness.

Sempoashochitl, or Marigold

Display board explaing Sempoashochitl Festival. Photo: Joe Cantrell

The Tianguis, or marketplace

A bounty of colorful handiworks ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
A bounty of colorful handiworks …
... a resplendence of flowers and birds ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… a resplendence of flowers and birds …
... dresses, fabrics, and smiles on display ... Photo: Joe Cantrell
… dresses, fabrics, and smiles on display …
... and a wealth of beauty available to buy, from hats to pots to basketry. Photo: Joe Cantrell
… and a wealth of beauty available to buy, from hats to pots to basketry.

Día de los Muertes

Leading up to the altar. Photo: Joe Cantrell
Leading up to the altar.
Dressed for the occasion. Photo: Joe Cantrell
Dressed for the occasion.
The Day of the Dead altar: a remembrance and a bridge. Photo: Joe Cantrell
The Day of the Dead altar: a remembrance and a bridge.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

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One Response

  1. Beautiful photos (as usual) Joe! Thank you for covering the beauty of this celebration. It is one of my favorites.

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