Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Poem In Honor of Ofelia Miramontes" - Presentation By Lorna Dee Cervantes 11/2/05 at CU-Boulder Museum of Natural History

What follows is the unedited text for the Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead altar we have constructed in honor of CU-Boulder administrator and professor of education, Ofelia Miramontes who passed last summer. In March, 2003, I had the honor and pleasure of attending an annual luncheon for the Latina Leadership League where Ofelia was the featured speaker. For an hour she spoke of her life and life's work, and of her struggles for two things close to our hearts: literacy and equality in education; i.e., recruitment and retention. After her talk, we spoke together at length about these and other topics; we shared much in common. I was touched to discover that my poetry had been important to her whilst a student at Claremont. She loved poetry as she loved all literature, all writing, all books. I was always aware of her work, her accomplishments, and her untiring spirit but it was a gift to have the opportunity to get to know her as a person, a person I greatly admired for her grace, her mind, her integrity. She was a rare human being and a rarer scholar. Her loss is a great loss to the university. Join me this evening in a presentation of a poem (in the shape of an Aztec pyramid) I wrote in her honor to be performed to the song, one of her favorite, "De Colores", a children's song taken up by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers to represent all peoples, all colors "from colors", and sung by Brenda Romero, Professor of Ethnomusicology and musician, Ellen Klaver among others -- and you -- at the CU-Boulder Museum of Natural History, First Floor, at 7 - 9 pm. Come visit the joyful spirits of the dead among the loving living and their altars; the evening will begin with a ceremony conducted by Aztec dancers, "danzantes" from Mexico. This and other altars will be on exhibit for the rest of the week. Come join us in celebrating those who celebrated diversity. (You might join us between book-signing and the awards presentation to one of my favorite authors, and people, Terry Tempest Williams by the Center for the American West.
~ Lorna Dee Cervantes

This altar follows a traditional precolombian style altar constructed in honor of a significant member of the community, in this case, a Tlatimini, the Nahuatl word for a a great scholar and teacher, Ofelia Miramontes, Professor of Education and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Equity -- one of a handful of Mexican American women in the world to achieve such a position in higher education. Ofelia, whose work focused on linguistic diversity and language acquisition, was instrumental to the development and creation of academic excellence and recruitment programs on campus which led to an increased, and sustained, presence of linguistically, socially and economically diverse students and faculty. Ofelia, along with her husband, William Barclay, established the CU - LEAD Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The colors represent the four cardinal directions; the nine concentric circles represent the nine levels of Miktlan, the realm of the dead. Marigolds (cempalxochi) are used to guide the spirit of the departed to the altar, to the food, people, drink, music and items that she loved.

Dr. Ofelia Miramontes was a Tlatimini, a true scholar who walked the path of integrity -- with ever a smile for all. Tlazocamati, gracias, thank you, Ofelia, for a beautiful life.

Poem In Honor of Ofelia Miramontes

She was a new, and now ever, friend.
She walked the path to integrity.
Tlazocamati, thank you, Ofelia, gracias for a beautiful life.
~ Lorna Dee Cervantes from the Telpochcalli of Colorado

You read your life
Into ours, reaped
a generation of scholars.

You wrote your life
Into a door that opened
To another generation of survivors.

You loved your life
Into theirs, opened a pod of hearts,
Helped nurture a brave new world of lovers.

You said your life,
All voices, all words, telling: Truth
Upheld, published aloft for a new canon of sayers.

You smiled your life
All your life, smiled: "a wedge
And never a token" -- Opening! Opening! Opening!

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Associate Professor of English
November 2, 2005

"a wedge and never a token" is taken from one of Ofelia's favorite poems, "To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy

*Tlatimini - scholar and teacher (note: in indigenous American languages "to teach" means "to heal")
*Telpochcalli - University


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