Friday, October 26, 2007

Mojos, online news and the future of journalism

LAS CRUCES — We’ve been doing a lot of thinking, here at the Sun-News, about the ways we communicate in the new millennium.
If you’re a regular visitor to our Web site,, you’ve probably been noticing a lot of changes in the way we’re doing things, from continuous news updates to more video clips and photo galleries and blogs.
And our Web editor Tracy Patrick reports that more and more of you are spending time with us online. We’re getting about 1.3 million hits a month these days, including more than 30,000 of you who are checking us out for the first time, from locations all over the planet.
I see the changes personally in your e-mails and responses to my Las Cruces Style blog. (To get there: go to, click on the Blogzone and then on the Las Cruces Style icon.)
There is a lot more diversity in the people I’ve heard from in recent months. My day now can include an inquiry from a Midwestern teen who’s collecting things I’ve written about and comments from people from Alaska to Florida who are interested in moving here and want to learn a little more about what life is like in Las Cruces. Sometimes, I hear from an old high school amigo in Michigan or a long-lost college friend who has come across my byline while searching for something else: a chance meeting in cyberspace.
When I was in journalism school, back in the Jurassic Age, we Baby Boomers heard a lot of dire predictions about the future of newspapers and print media. A lot of those predictions have come true. Afternoon editions have vanished in most places and readers are migrating to different media forms.
Broadcast media, especially television, was expected to reign supreme, certainly in terms of immediacy, and many pundits thought TV would swiftly replace newspapers entirely. That didn’t happen and now it looks like the tides are turning again, with online news, usually affiliated with a print newspaper, often scooping radio and TV news services that are focused on rigid broadcast times.
What we’re moving toward, Sun-News editor Jim Lawitz said recently, is a new generation of “mojos,” or mobile journalists, who rarely or never see a traditional newsroom, spending entire careers out in the field, with laptops and other state-of-the-art equipment that will allow us all to file reports directly online, complete with audio, video and still photography. Doing, in short, what many of us are doing with our iPhones and friends right now.
There are elements of deja vu in all this for me. I started my career in my early teens, at a time when there was a renewed emphasis on local news and reporting in the field, sometimes with an emphasis on first-person experiences.
We went to great lengths then, to try to get the real story. George Plimpton trained and sometimes actually played with football and hockey teams to share with readers what life was like among professional athletes.
In my early 20s, I enrolled in two high schools, impersonating a 17-year-old, to compare life at experimental and traditional schools.
These days, as mojos, I suspect, we’d most likely skip the subterfuge and just get out there as close as possible to the action, to share the sights and sounds with you all in cyberspace.
Will there be room in this brave new world, for words, still my medium of choice?
I think so.
I pondered it all during an early autumn vacation in northern New Mexico.
It has been said that we live in the only state where light photographs true, but I’ve yet to see a still or moving picture that really captures the transcendent experience of rosy adobe against high desert country sky. You need words to even attempt it, and phrases and concepts like electric blue and lapis lazuli, and poetic comparisons: Santa Fe looks like the work of a giant potter, displaying his ancient art in the sun.
There are many other experiences — sensual and emotional and intellectual and spiritual — which, I realized, couldn’t be truly conveyed with any online technology currently known to man.
Sometimes, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words. Sometimes, nothing but words will do, and even if it takes thousands of well-chosen words, the investment is worth it.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Picks for the week

Think there's nothing to do in Las Cruces? Here's another full-tilt fiesta week's worth of fun stuff: It’s time to celebrate lives well lived with Dia de los Muertos events Saturday and Sunday in Mesilla. Build an altar on the Mesilla Plaza, join a Frida Kahlo lookalike parade or decorate a sugar skull. In Las Cruces, see Jose Tena’s memorial altar at the Branigan Cultural Center, carve a pumpkin, enjoy some spooky events during The Big Read or get out and catch some inspirational art openings and enjoy some Halloween fun for adults.
Here’s what’s happening.

Halloween Costume Ball tonight
If you like “Dancing With the Stars,” you might enjoy getting down with ghouls and more elegantly attired spirits at the Halloween Costume Ball from 7 to 10 p.m. today at Take Five, 705 N. Main St. Treats include dancing to a nine-piece orchestra, belly dancing, costume contests, prizes, a chocolate fountain and more. Admission is $10.

Pumpkin Carving Family Workshop
Bring the family to a workshop and get ideas for new ways to design and carve your own pumpkin creations Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. The workshop is $5 for a family of four. To preregister (required), call 522-4100.
Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Workshop
Learn to decorate traditional Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls at a two-day workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Cultural Center of Mesilla, 2231 Calle de Parian, next to the Mesilla Post Office. An apron or towel and comfortable dress are suggested. Supplies will be provided, but bring your own special and personal items to adorn skulls which are traditionally used in Mexico to decorate the altar of a deceased person. Workshop leader Patricia Camila Minjárez will discuss Day of the Dead traditions. Fee is $15 for adults and $7 for kids. For information, call 523-3988 or visit online at

Last Saturday Artwalk at Hadley Galleries
There’s a new autumn schedule for Last Saturday Artwalks at galleries at Hadley Center at University Avenue and El Paseo Road. Artwalks will be from 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday and Nov. 24 at the Glenn Cutter Jewelers and Gallery and the Patio Art Gallery. Meet artists and see their new works at special receptions. Catch Las Cruces icon Rosemary McLoughlin at Cutter's.

Big Read Spooktacular Events
Learn more about spooky and spectacular New Mexico traditions at several free events celebrating The Big Read. For more information on any of the following events, visit or call 646-6925 or 646-5792.
• Folklorist Nasario Garcia presents “Hispanic Fiestas of Yesteryear: From Food and Fun to Fisticuffs,” a lecture based on personal experiences, old-timers’ own words and tape-recorded music of years gone by at 3 p.m. Saturday at Branigan Memorial Library, 200 E. Picacho Ave.
• Nasario Garcia shares tales of buried treasures, the devil, the evil eye, the bogeyman and natural phenomena that were once the keystone of family entertainment in Hispanic villages of Northern New Mexico in “Would You Like to Meet the Devil, Bogeyman, or La Llorona?” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.
• NMSU professor Mary O’Connell and practicing curandera Cristina Villapardo present “Healing Herbs and the Curandera Tradition,” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Fabian Garcia Science Center Landscape Garden on University Avenue, 1⁄4 mile west of South Main Street.
• Historian Rick Hendricks will share his research on the themes of Catholic tradition and witchcraft in “Witchcraft and Religious Conflict in New Mexican History,” at noon Nov. 1, in the library associates room at Zuhl Library on the NMSU campus.
Weaving sale and celebration
View and purchase the latest weavings and other products from groups in Chiapas, Peru, and the southern New Mexico border region, and enjoy coffee and food treats when the Las Cruces - Chiapas Connection and Sophia’s Circle join to present the 3rd annual Celebration of Women’s Cooperative Groups from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Milagro Coffee & Espresso, 1733 E. University Ave. Special guests include Cecilia Santiago Vera, a social psychologist and supporter of the Other Campaign from Chiapas, Mexico, and Rachel Mehl, the alternative economy program coordinator for Mexico Solidarity Network. Sale proceeds support weavers and their families.
Halloween Art Show
Enjoy artistic tricks and treats for grownups at a Halloween Night Art Show from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Laughing at the Sun Gallery in the allegedly haunted Old Tortilla Factory, 1910 Calle de Parian in Mesilla.

Don't miss the singing, dancing dinosaurs! See review here


By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — You’ll believe dinosaurs are capable of romance, and a wide range of other complex behaviors (including sibling rivalry and passionate tangos), if you are wise enough to go see “Extinction: A Love Story,” a musical about dinosaurs making its world premiere this week in Las Cruces at New Mexico State University’s Music Center Recital Hall.
There are gripping emotional encounters, touching love duets, bitter rivalries, a deeply moving death scene, humorous banter and elegant dances.
Bob Diven wrote the book, lyrics and music for the tale of six paleontologists who morph into surprisingly similar dinosaur counterparts.
Their adventures take us back 65 million years to the New Mexico desert, when big changes are in store.
A talented team collaborated to create a thoroughly enjoyable production.
Returning New York-based professional entertainers with NMSU connections, opera singer Jessica Medoff Bunchman and dancer, singer and choreographer Isaac Quiroga, star in an intriguing love triangle with Ian Sidden, an NMSU graduate student in voice, who more than holds his own with the pros. Sidden’s rich voice and confident bluster make his cocky T-Rex a convincing dino babe magnet.
He lures his love with the offer of a mega hunk of decaying meat.
“Ooh, a haunch! You remembered,” purrs the object of his affection, as the two join in the show’s show-stopping song-and-dance number, the passionate “Carnivores in Love” tango.
But Medoff Bunchman’s Albertosaurus finds herself tempted to leave her top-of-the-food-chain lover when she finds a soulmate in a herbivore named Bob (Quiroga), a lovesick hadrosaur.
Ashley Foster and Brandon Brown provide comic relief as the squabbling, hyperactive brother and sister of the genus ornithomimus. Richard Rundell, portraying the last remaining pentaceratops, is the sage and elder of the group. His moving farewell aria is reminiscent of Grizabella’s “Memories” in “Cats.”
Deserving of co-starring accolades for the production’s success are Mark Medoff’s sensitive direction, Debra Knapp’s eloquent choreography and Deb Brunson’s sets and wonderful costumes.
Everything works together, as the actors skillfully move within their roles and imaginative outfits to convey complex emotions and navigate challenging musical production numbers. These are no one-trick prehistoric beasts; these dinos have range.
Diven’s creative script and music offer lots of opportunities for the cast to strut their diverse skills. Numbers range from musical comedy ensemble pieces and a lively spiritual to duets and trios with complex and lovely harmonies and solos that focus on messages both subtle and dramatic.
And characters, both in homo sapiens and dino forms, grapple with some disturbingly relevant concepts as they struggle to “see who makes the cut” to “escape the existential rut” and the last of a dying breed mourns “young ones left behind, in a world too vast to be kind.”
As Diven noted, “Like the Titanic, we all know how this story ends,” but he manages to leave the audience with some encouraging thoughts: the upside of extinction can be some intriguing evolution. And both humans and dinos reach the same carpe diem conclusion: “If it all ends tomorrow, life is beautiful today.”
Substantial contributions come from musical direction by Shanelle Jernigan, an NMSU alum who is currently visiting from Ohio, and lighting designer Gerald Kottman. His shadow effects reinforce the dinosaur illusions skillfully conveyed by the cast and crew.
“Extinction” is a great all-ages show. A class of Vista Middle School students gave the production rave reviews and a standing ovation at a dress rehearsal. Kids will love the costumes and antics and adults should find much to appreciate, too, including Medoff Bunchman’s expressive delivery and truly beautiful voice, Quiroga’s graceful moves and Diven’s sly wit.
The musical, developed in NMSU collaborate summer theater workshops, combines resources and talents from the Las Cruces community and from Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts, the Doña Ana Lyric Opera and the NMSU Department of Music.
Tickets, at $15 or $5 for NMSU students, will be available at the Pan American Center box office at (575) 646-1420, through the F.Y.E. store in the Mesilla Valley Mall, from Ticketmaster at (575) 532-2060 or or at the door at NMSU Music Center Recital Hall on performance nights at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Monday, October 22, 2007

More movie casting opportunities

For those unable to attend last Saturday's casting cast for "The Burning Plain," casting directors have just informed me that there are some online possibilities.
They ask you to send a headshot along with name, age, phone number, height, weight and hair color to :

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hundreds of extras needed for movie

Directors of the movie "Burning Plain" will be looking for as many as 500 extras.

"We're looking for a range of 300-500 people," said Fernando Echeverri, one of the film's directors. "And we believe we'll be able to put them all to work."

Echeverri said the extras will be paid between $8.50 and $10 an hour for their work during filming, which will take place between Nov. 4 through Dec. 18 in the Las Cruces area.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Downlow on Dia de los Muertos

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Dia de los Muertos has been called “a day when heaven and earth meet” and “a celebration of lives well lived.”
In Las Cruces, it has become a beloved tradition, a time when Borderland cultures blend, showcasing and sometimes creatively combining Spanish, Mexican, Native American and Anglo customs and beliefs.
Dia De Los Muertos “is not a morbid holiday but a festive remembrance of Los Angelitos (children) and all souls (Los Difuntos),” according to a statement from The Calavera Coalition of Mesilla. “This celebration originated with the indigenous people of the American continent, the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and the Inca. Now, many of the festivities have been transformed from their original pre-Hispanic origins. It is still celebrated throughout North America among Native American tribes. The Spanish arrived and they altered the celebration to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).”
Continuing a Las Cruces Style tradition, here is a guide to some important terms and concepts relating to Day of the Dead celebrations.
alfeñique: Molded sugar figures used in altars for the dead.
ancianos: Grandparents or elderly friends or relatives who have died; ancestors honored during the first (north) part of processions for Day of the Dead.
angelitos: Literally "little angels;" refers to departed children and babies, traditionally honored during the first day of celebrations, Nov. 1, and the third (south) part of processions honoring the dead.
anima sola: A lonely soul or spirit who died far from home or who is without amigos or relatives to take responsibility for its care.
calascas: Handmade skeleton figurines which display an active and joyful afterlife, such as musicians or skeleton brides and grooms in wedding finery.
calaveras: Skeletons, used in many ways for celebrations: bread and candies in the shape of skeletons are traditional, along with everything from small and large figures and decorations, skeleton head rattles, candles, masks, jewelry and T-shirts. It’s also the term for skull masks, often painted with bright colors and flowers and used in displays and worn in Day of the Dead processions.
literary calaveras: are poetic tributes written for departed loved ones or things mourned and/or as mock epitaphs.
copal: A fragrant resin from a Mexican tree used as incense, burned alone or mixed with sage in processions in honor of the dead.
Dias de los Muertos: Days of the dead, usually celebrated on Nov. through 3 in conjunction with All Souls Days or Todos Santos, the Catholic Feast of All Saints. Various Borderland communities, including Las Cruces, have their own celebration schedules in October and November.
Difunto: Deceased soul, corpse, cadaver.
La Flaca: Nickname for the female death figure, also known as La Muerte.
Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist who collected objects related to the Day of the Dead. Her photo often appears in Dia De Los Muertos shrines or retablos.
Los Guerreros: Literally, “the warriors,” are dead fathers, husbands, brothers and sons honored in the final (east) stop in Dia De Los Muertos processions.
marigolds: In Mexico, marigolds or "cempasuchil" are officially known as the "flower of the dead." The flowers are added to processional wreaths at each stop, with one blossom representing each departed soul being honored. Sometimes marigold pedals are strewn from the cemetery to a house. Their pungent fragrance is said to help the spirits find their way back home. Sometimes mums and paper flowers are also used.
mariposas: Butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds, appear with skeletons to symbolize the flight of the soul from the body to heaven.
masks: Carried or worn during processions and other activities, masks can range from white face paint to simple molded plaster or papier-maché creations or elaborate painted or carved versions that become family heirlooms.
Las Mujeres: The women who have died are honored during the second (west) stop of Day of the Dead processions. After names of dead mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are called and honored, it is traditional for the crowd to sing a song for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Náhuatl poetry: Traditional odes dedicated to the subject of death, dating back to the pre-Columbian era.
ofrenda: Traditional altar where offerings such as flowers, clothing, food, photographs and objects loved by the departed are placed. The ofrenda may be constructed in the home—usually in the dining room—at a cemetery, or may be carried in a procession. The ofrenda base is usually an arch made of bent reeds. It is ornamented with special decorations, sometimes with heirlooms collected by families much like Christmas ornaments. Decorations may include skeleton figures, toys and musical instruments in addition to offerings for a specific loved one.
pan de muertos: Literally, “bread of the dead." It is traditionally baked in the shape of a skull—calavera—and dusted with pink sugar. Here, local bakeries sometimes include red and green chile decorations.
papel picado: Decorations made of colored paper cut in intricate patterns.
Posada: Jose Guadalupe Posada, the self-taught “printmaker to the people,” and caricaturist was known for his whimsical calaveras, or skeletons, depicted wearing dapper clothes, playing instruments and otherwise nonchalantly conducting their everyday activities, sometimes riding on horse skeletons.
veladores: Professional mourners who help in the grief process in several ways, including candlelight vigils, prayers and with dramatic weeping and wailing.
Xolotlitzcuintle: Monster dog, sometimes depicted as a canine skeleton, sometimes as a Mexican hairless breed. Since pre-Columbian times, this Dia de los Muertos doggy has, according to legend, been the departed’s friend, helping with the tests of the perilous crossing of the River Chiconauapan to Mictlan, the land of the dead.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Dia de Los Muertos...¿Que Pasa?

Here's what's happeing for Day of the Dead in the Borderlands. If you're a newcomer, see the downlow posting for the basics on customs and traditions.

If you go ...
• Mesilla Dia de los Muertos celebration
What: Altar building, music, dance, parade, food treats, activities for kids and arts vendors
Where: Mesilla Plaza
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oct. 27 and 28. Begin building altars (free) at 8 a.m. Saturday Oct. 27
Closing procession: at 6 p.m. Nov. 2 on Mesilla Plaza. Costumes, instruments and noisemakers welcome
How much: Free, but donations of canned food for the needy are appreciated.
Info: Preciliana Sandoval, 647-2639 or Peggy King, 647-3347
Vendor applications: La Morena, Preciliana’s Gallery and La Paz Imports, 2488 Calle Principal in Mesilla
• Frida Kahlo Look-alike Contest
Where: Old Tortilla Factory, 1910 Calle de Mesilla
When: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 27
Prizes: Gift basket from Old Tortilla Factory shops and galleries
Info: 541-9693 or 642-4312
• Jose Tena’s Dia de los Muertos altar
Where: Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main St., Downtown Mall
Honoring: Mexican cowboy star Antonio Aguilar, and Tena’s father Jose Antonio Tena
When: Oct. 29 to Nov. 6. Center hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
How much: Free
Info: 541-2155
• Dia de los Muertos Altar Honoring Extinct Animals
Where: Las Cruces Museum of Natural History at the Mesilla Valley Mall
When: Altar goes up Oct. 26. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
How much: Free
Info: 522-3120
• El Paso Dia de los Muertos Celebration
When & Where: 6 to 11 p.m. Nov. 2, Union Plaza, El Paso, other events Nov. 1, 2 and 3 at various venues
Who: City of El Paso Museums and Cultural affairs Department, Cuidad Juarez
Highlights: Live entertainment, lectures, children’s theater, mock funeral procession, arts and crafts, altars, traditional food treats, “Culture Cruise to Die For” gallery tours, new Mercada de los Huesos (Bones Market) showcasing artists from both sides of the Border
How much? Most events are free
• Dia de los Muertos Art and Music Street Fest
When: 6 p.m. doors open, music starts at 7 p.m. Nov. 1
Where: Zeppelin’s Pub and The Black Market, 111 E. Robinson St. in El Paso
Highlights: Poetry and art, music by Elijah Emmanuel, Radio La Chusma, Royal Mudd, Fixed Idea, Liquid Cheese, local DJs
How much? $7 at the door

How to build an altar
(Source: Preciliana Sandoval, Calavera Coalition)
Suggested items to place on your altar:
• A structure with three levels (symbolizes the Holy Trinity and Azteca tradition honoring “above, below and within” )
• There should be four sides, honoring the four directions
• Plus: Salt to spice the afterlife, an inviting glass of water, to quench the thirst of an entire year, their favorite meal, drink, smoke, snacks, the symbols of their occupations and hobbies.
• Other traditional items include photos of departed loved ones, marigolds, incense, pan de muertos (dead bread) and candies in the shape of skulls.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
MESILLA — ¡Viva Dia de los Muertos!
Get ready for two weeks of Dia de los Muertos celebrations in the Borderland with fiestas and special events that start Saturday in Mesilla and continue through early November in Southern New Mexico, El Paso and Cuidad Juarez. Dead Day highlights range from a Frida Kahlo look-alike parade in Mesilla to a “Bone Market” in El Paso.
This year, local Day of the Dead activities begin with a fiesta and altar building, Saturday and Oct. 28 on Mesilla’s Plaza.
“I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since our first celebration here,” said Preciliana Sandoval, who founded the Mesilla celebration in 1995 with volunteer members of a nonprofit group called the Calavera Coalition.
Sandoval said she has been amazed by the public’s response to the event.
“It’s so much fun and you get to meet so many people. It’s been a wonderful and very emotional experience for many people, including me. Every year, people who build altars and join the processions and celebrations, come to us volunteers crying and hugging and say, ‘Thank you for doing this. You have helped me grieve.’ You never realize how much grief affects you and how much grief you carry through life. Celebrating Dia de los Muertos has helped me deal with it,” Sandoval said.
Some aspects of the celebration, with its merry skeletons and dark humor, can be a shock for newcomers.
Mike Walczak, manager of the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History, said one of the first things he saw when he arrived at his new post was the museum’s annual Dia de los Muertos altar honoring extinct animals.
“It was rather strange for me, coming from the East Coast. I’d never seen anything like that in Baltimore. But I learned about the Day of the Dead and I love it,” said Walczak, who reports the animal altar will be up by Friday Oct. 26 at the museum in the Mesilla Valley Mall.
Sandoval, an artist and storyteller who is a native of Mesilla, said she has spent years studying the roots and customs of Borderland Day of the Dead celebrations.
“According to ancient Aztec tradition of honoring our deceased loved ones, it is believed that each soul has the divine right to visit us one day each year, symbolically: the children on the first day of November and the adults on Nov. 2. In Mesilla, on Oct. 27 and 28, we will transform the entire plaza into a makeshift cemetery where anyone can erect an ofrenda, or altar, to honor his or her loved ones,” Sandoval said.
Traditionally, altars can include almost anything related to the life of the departed friend, relative or even a pet. Altars often include photos, letters and a sampling of the difunto’s (dead person’s) favorite things, from a cigar or a favorite food or drinks to books, CDs, toys or articles of clothing.
Altar building will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday on the Mesilla Plaza. Oct. 27.
“There is no charge to build an altar, but we do request three cans of non-perishable food for donation to the Casa de Peregrinos Food Bank. And we request that you leave the altars overnight and we’ll provide security,” Sandoval said.
The festival, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 on the Mesilla Plaza, will also include music, dance, food treats, activities for kids and arts vendors.
Mesilla’s 2007 poster features art by internationally known papel picado (cut paper) artist Catalina Delgado-Trunk, a former Las Cruces resident who now lives in Albuquerque. Also featured will be original works by regional artists and students from Las Cruces High School and Alma d’arte High School for the Arts.
A newer Dead Day tradition is a local tribute to famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who is credited with popularizing Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico and elsewhere.
“We’ve had Frida Kahlo Look-Alike Contests for the past two years. This year, we’re going to attempt to create a new category in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the world’s largest parade of Frida look-alikes. For this event, ALL participants will dress up like Frida Kahlo and march in a short parade along a route that will be announced the day of the event, from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 27,” said Georjeanna Feltha, owner of Black Gold From the Sun at the Old Tortilla Factory, 1910 Calle de Parian in Mesilla, where Frida wannabes are asked to gather.
“Prizes will be given for the most convincing interpretation of our beloved Frida,” Feltha said.
Mesilla’s Dias de los Muertos celebrations end with a candlelight procession from San Albino Cemetery to the Mesilla Plaza beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 2. Participants are invited to come in costume and bring musical instruments or noisemakers.
“This year we’ll also have a float with Johnny Flores,” Sandoval said.
Jose Tena, founder of Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanta, will create his 14th Dia de Los Muertos altar this year, using his collection of art and artifacts.
“This year, I’ll be honoring Antonio Aguilar, known as El Charro Mexicana. He was Mexico’s cowboy star and a singer and actor. And I’ll also honor my dad, Jose Antonio Tena, who died in December. He was 93,” Tena said.
The altar will be on display Oct. 29 through Nov. 6 at Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday. For information, call 541-21555 or visit online at services/museums
El Paso and Cuidad Juarez will join for a three-day binational celebration of Día de los Muertos from Nov. 1 through 3 at various locations in both border cities. Events for adults and children will include live entertainment, lectures, children’s theater, an arts and crafts market featuring artists and artisans from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, a mock funeral procession with professional actors, altars and more.
A free Dia de los Muertos celebration, from 6 to 11 p.m. Nov. 2 at Union Plaza located in Downtown El Paso between City Hall and the Historic Union Depot, will include a concert, lectures, kids’ arts and crafts displays, altars, homemade pan de muerto and the new Mercada de los Hueso (Bones Market), showcasing artists from both sides of the Border. A “Culture Cruise to Die For” will offer a free arts hop through galleries, museums and other venues showcasing Dia de los Muertos themes from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 in Downtown El Paso. Nov. 3 events will include special activities for kids, dance, theater, multimedia presentations and more at sites throughout El Paso. For information and a complete schedule of events, visit online at

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, October 5, 2007

Are you into gore decor?

LAS CRUCES — Las Crucens are crazy about costumes and gore decor.
And they aren’t alone. Americans will spend more than $5 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted in September, with the average person spending almost $65. Most of that will go, not for candy, but for decorating our homes and ourselves, including costumes for our kids, adults and even our pets.
Almost three-fourths of us will hand out treats, spending an average of about $20 for goodies, according to the survey, compared to almost $18 on decorations and more than $23 on costumes. Guess who will spend the most on costumes? The big bucks aren’t going to festoon those adorable little princesses, pirates and superheroes who show up on our doorstops. The big spenders are 18- to 24-year-olds who plan to spring for $35 for fantasy garb.
In the 1950s and ’60s, my prime trick or treating years, I don’t remember anyone much over 12 or 13 dressing up for Halloween. There were a few good sports — the odd teacher or scout leader and maybe the one or two people in the neighborhood who made a big deal of Halloween — who would dress up and maybe add some kind of door decoration in addition to the obligatory jack-’o-lantern. But you always felt they were doing it all in the line of duty, because they wanted kids to have a good time. I don’t remember adults or even older kids having their own parties and celebrations on Oct. 31.
All that has changed … a lot. Trust me, I know. I’ve been in the Halloween front lines for more than a decade now. With chronic costume aficionados (mostly adults) preparing for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and RenFaire every year, dressing up is a big deal here. When I started in the mid-1990s, researching the annual costume outlook story was mostly a matter of going to La Vieja and The Gen and visiting a few superstores for a look around the toy department’s pretty standard offerings.
It took a couple of hours. Now, I could easily spend several days making the rounds. One major costume outlet, Toys R Us, has closed, but many more emporiums have arisen and those that have been here for awhile have expanded. ABC Party World is an almost all-Halloween store this year. Mesilla Valley Mall now has what amounts to its own three-store Halloween subdivison, in a cluster that features the Halloween Bootique, Spirit Halloween Superstore and Hot Topic (I must admit that I am now so old that it’s tough for me to distinguish some of their regular Goth gear from the official Halloween costumes). All the big superstores and several dollar, variety, discount and rug stores have huge Halloween sections.
Maybe it’s been creeping up for some time and it’s just hitting me now, but this year, the biggest costume stores seem to have more costumes and accessories for adults than for kids 12 and under.
When did Halloween become such a big deal and why? And when did adults start to take it all so personally and embrace it as a fiesta of their own?
Like most trends since World War II, I expect people to lay the blame at the feet (maybe clad, this month, in sequined ruby-red slippers or giant clown shoes) of my generation: the Baby Boomers.
But it’s the young adults — our kids — who are really going into full-tilt Halloween fiesta mode. Is it part of the whole trend of taking longer to grow up than previous generations? Is there something about life now that makes adults more eager to escape into alter egos and secret identities?
Or is it a healthy urge to celebrate life and explore alternative realities?
And speaking of alternative realities, the gore decor market seems to be blowing up. Literally. What’s with all the inflatables? People are snapping up animated and inflated items priced from $100 to $200 and more.
Maybe it’s the result of growing up with very impressive movie special effects. Every year things seem to get bigger, more animated, more elaborate, more realistic and more disgusting.
If I had any doubts that things have gone too far, 2007 is the year I’m officially calling it. There’s so much truly horrible stuff out there, I’m not sure exactly which gory masterpiece finally put it over the line for me. But my nomination is a fountain that features an anguished, screaming figure gushing blood from a torso severed at the waist. Ugh.
Have we become so desensitized by graphic violence in movies and the daily news that we need this kind of thing to get a reaction? Has real life become so scary that we need an ever-gorier annual fiesta as a kind of vaccination to prepare us for fresh horrors on the horizon?
Haven’t we been scared enough?
What do you think? Drop me a line, access my blog by going to, click on the Blogzone and then click on the Las Cruces Style icon or send me an e-mai at the address below.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at