For decades, Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery owners Macario Ramirez and his wife Chrissie have been bringing Día de Muertos festivities to Houston Heights. The celebration is now a staple in the community, but at the beginning, people called him names for honoring his culture. “We’d get hostile visitors here,” he told the Houston Press. “They’d say, ‘What in the hell are you doing? What are those skulls about?’ I’d say, ‘Aren’t they beautiful? Look they’re smiling.’”
When he explained that the holiday was tied to his ancestors, the haters didn’t know how to react. Other, more cowardly, people would anonymously call and say he was a “faithless bastard.”
Macario didn’t understand Día de Muertos when he was younger either. His father took him to see his grandmother’s grave in Saltillo, Mexico, and the skulls and skeletons tied to the day of remembrance frightened him. “They scared the hell out of me!” he said. “My father told me, ‘No, no, you need to understand this.’ That’s when I started learning about it, the traditions and what they meant. I kept learning about it and I studied.”
An annual exhibit of altars created by members of the community give people a chance to participate in the event, and free classes about Día de Muerto’s history gives even more people a deeper understanding.
Read more about how Macario has helped popularize this tradition in Houston Heights here.