Ofelia Esparza


Mexican American altars

For Mexican Catholics, altares, or home altars, are installations consisting of artifacts, mementos, photographs, prefabricated objects, flowers, santos (saints), and candles to create a sacred place either within a home or on public display for special feast days of the church.  Ofelia Esparza, who has lived in East Los Angeles her entire life, explains, "My altars stem from the legacy left to me from beyond three generations of women-from my mother to my great-great mother."

Ofelia was a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2012, with her daughter and apprentice Rosanna Esparza Ahrens.  Their apprenticeship focused on the construction of an altar, Tree of Life, honoring life in East Los Angeles.  The altar was installed at Self Help Graphics during their annual Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, exhibition.

As a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2002, she guided another daughter, Elena Esparza, in the artistic and spiritual principles of altar building.  During the apprenticeship, they focused on altars for specific holidays: ofrendas (altars) for Dia de los Muertos (November 2) and nacimientos (nativity scenes) for Christmas.

Images

Click on any image to view slideshow.

An altar honoring Sister Karen Bocalerro, founder of Self Help Graphics in East Los Angeles (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)
Community altar built in 2007 by master altarista Ofelia Esparza and Rosanna Esparza Ahrens (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)
Community altar built in 2010 by master altarista Ofelia Esparza and Rosanna Esparza Ahrens (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)
For Day of the Dead 2001 at Self Help Graphics, Ofelia Esparza recreated a prison cell in a corner of the gallery (Photo: ACTA)
Master altarista Ofelia Esparza and her daughter Rosanna Esparza Ahrens with a finished altar (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)
Ofelia and Elena Esparza assembled this nacimiento for Christmas 2001 (8'x7'x5') (Photo: ACTA)
Ofelia Esparza (left) and her daughter Elena before an ofrenda they built together (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)
Rosanna Esparza Ahrens paints details on an altar-in-construction (Photo courtesy of Ofelia Esparza)

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