When the leaves change their color and the time of harvest makes its way towards the end of a long year, rightfully comes Día De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead for those not native to the language. Usually confused as an extension of Halloween, the holiday — which originated from Mexico and later became immersed in Spanish holidays when Spaniards came to Mexico — is seen as a time to celebrate life, not death. Now, mostly celebrated throughout Latin countries and communities, the depiction and appreciation of the holiday can be met with a universal ideal that no one is really gone as long as their story goes on.
Regardless of belief, the tradition’s sentiments of life is one we can all appreciate. To celebrate, GUM’s ofrenda comes from everyday stories and the usual ballads that can be linked back to the beautiful celebration. Artists featured, such as Art Zavala Jr & the Little Magic Band wrote “The Breaks” after his mom’s passing from the view of his father, or Stone Sour’s “Through Glass” that reminds someone of a dear friend who left too soon, these stories will be immortalized in heart and sound.
Chingon “Malaguena Salerosa” – My grandma used to sing this song all the time. I even learned the classical flamingo version of it. It’s about a guy who doesn’t have it but will do anything for a beautiful girl. So, it’s not day of the dead related type of song, but to my family it is. Mostly because it brings good joy about my grandmother. – Geo De Leon
ABBA “Chiquitita” and Lola Beltran “Cucurrucucu Paloma” – There is a song by ABBA, [CHIQUITITA], my Uncle the priest, that was one of his favorite songs. He would always sing it and help him bring his spirits up when he was down. It reminds me of happy times, spring time, of how he would help so many people, especially the young kids, teenagers, to get off the streets, and how he taught me about faith by his actions. “Paloma” was my grandmother’s song. She would sing it when she was having a few beers and thinking about my grandfather. It reminds me of all the happy moments I spent with her, all the stories she would tell me of when she was young, those are some of the happiest moments I shared with my grandmother. She made me so happy and so alive. I learned so many things from her and I am grateful I got to share those moments with her. – Betty Sanchez
The Sound of Animals Fighting “Skullflower” – This song is up there in my memories of my dad that passed away in 2009. It was one on repeat as I was dealing this those traumatic days. – Jay Martin
Mind Monogram “A Donde” – I could never listen to this song for personal reasons, and as I mourned a loss of a living human and the changes that soon followed, this song meant something else. Now that my grandma just passed away, for some odd reason this song came back to my ears. I thought of her smile and the essence of life itself; it really is beautiful. Stories will forever live, in songs like this, and shedding the pain into the evolution of a new beginning, that is worth seeing that beautiful smile afterwards. – Janette Ayub
Stone Sour “Through Glass” – Brianna and I miss him [Joseph] and love him. We wish we were able to help more. – Ray Garcia
Los Hermanos Flores “La Bala” and La Sonora Dinamita “Capullo y Sorullo” – Now my dad loved music. I mean seriously loves music. Dad was awake when it’s Saturday and he’s blasting music to wake us “laysis” up because it was noon (really it was 8 a.m.) and the day was gone…My dad was proud to be Salvadorian but he claimed all Latino America. – Jessica Urroz
Thank you to those who shared their stories with GUM, and sent songs this way.
All photos: Geovanny De Leon