Dia de los Muertos 2023 – Generaciones


Re-Imagined photo of Gabina, Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico, circa late 1930s.

October 26, 2023 – EVENT

EMMA D. ENRIQUEZ aka Valluna

This exhibit pays tribute to my Abuelita (grandmother), Gabina Frausto Ortega de Enriquez.
In it, I explore life for a woman born in 1914 – during the heart of the Mexican Revolution. As a child, I had always thought of my Abuelita as a smiling, warm, energetic farmer that cooked the most wonderful food, taught me nightly prayers, and radiated love.

But she was so much more…


The year Gabina was born, the Revolution had been raging through Mexico for 4 years.  Rebel leaders from the Northern and Southern states had fought against a dictatorship, under Porfirio Diaz, that favored wealthy landowners and foreign corporate interests over its Indigenous peoples and working classes.  Gabina’s family was of the working classes.  This war left her orphaned as a toddler.

Photo of Gabina and her husband, Ascencion Enriquez, at their farm in Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico, circa early 1990s.

Enhanced photo of Gabina, Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico, circa late 1930s.

When my grandmother was 2 years old, Revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata – representing the Northern and Southern states – sat victoriously in the Mexican palace.   While they had made tremendous strides in instituting change, there were still many more years of struggle ahead.  Sadly, both Villa and Zapata would eventually be assassinated during the fight for power. 


Throughout her childhood, and as a young adult, Gabina witnessed Mexico change from one narrative – that of dictatorship and class suppression – to one of hope.   But after all of the bloodshed and sacrifices, what did this mean?  Was there a unifying and cohesive sense of identity?   What did it mean to be a Mexican under a more democratic form of government?   These questions pushed Mexico, artistically, to be more inclusive of all of its peoples and classes – they became part of the wonderful texture woven through the country’s fabric.  Muralists like Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco painted the stories of the people’s struggles on public buildings.  Dance incorporated regional costumes and music through Ballet Folklorico.  Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema thrived.

Mexican Revolutionary Leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata sitting next to each other at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico on the 6 December 1914. Villa is sitting in the presidential chair.

Mexican revolutionary, circa 1914.

Diego Rivera Mural of the Mexican Revolution at the National Palace, Mexico City.  Photo credit and great article: https://stevebrassawe.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/mural-by-rivera/.  

Ballet Folklorico dancers representing the state of Jalisco, Mexico.  Photo credit and great article:  https://balletfolkloricomitotiani.weebly.com/regions.html.

Maria Candelaria (1943), directed by Emilio Fernandez.   Photo credit and great article:  https://www.filminquiry.com/beginners-guide-golden-age-mexican-cinema/?expand_article=1


During Gabina’s 107 years of life, she not only witnessed Mexico’s changes, but those of the world.  She witnessed – through newspaper headlines, and later in life, as an American citizen – economic and cultural shifts through the Great Depression and World Wars I and II.    

I can imagine what this was like – the shifting of grand narratives and disruption of collective understanding and identity.  What was it like to raise 13 children and to then have hundreds of grandchildren and great grandchildren spread throughout Northern America? What were her hopes for them? 

I see parallels between the time and world that my grandmother lived in and the current conflicts and shifts taking place today.   What does it mean to be a person living in the lost and emerging narratives of today?   I think that maybe by turning to our ancestors and looking at the past, we might be encouraged to form new ways of expressing unifying identities – based on a hope that we can be empathetic and humanitarian during these shifts.


The exhibit is made up of 7 original paintings and an altar inspired by the Mexican printmaker, Jose Posada, and the Mexican muralists.   

Two 8 foot murals encircle the altar.  The 8’ x 6’ mural, “The Tree of Life”, depicts the calaveras (skulls) of charros (Mexican cowboys) and revolutionary soldiers flowing from the Tree of Life.  The calaveras grin as if they have defeated death through the mythology of their existence.

A second 8’ x 6’ mural, “La Mujer Grande”, along with “La Mujer Pequena” (36” x 36”), reference the power of the Mexican female spirit.   Dressed in futuristic / 1910 costume, La Mujer poses for the viewer confidently.  She stands in front of a cyber desert landscape, her hat referencing both Catholic halos and sci-fi fantasy.  It is as if she is telling the viewer that she knows the way to the future.


To the left of the altar, “La Catrina” (24″ x 20″) glows against a matte black 2.0 background.  She references Posada and the use of his printmaking skills for political commentary.   


To the right of “La Catrina”, a second reference to Posada is embodied in “Fin del Mundo” (25″ x 30″).  In this work, Mexican villagers react to news of impending cataclysmic changes.   


To the right of the altar, “La Mujer Pequena”, is a smaller, but powerful replica of the larger mural.  The larger mural references the great murals that tell Mexico’s story of struggle in public places.  The smaller work references portraiture of the 1900s – representing individuality as opposed to the collective represented in the mural.