Mike Davis’ widow on what’s in his Dia de los Muertos altar

The death of author and historian Mike Davis sparked waves of grief in Southern California.

And in San Diego, where he lived until his death, some of those waves washed ashore his family home. They came to his wife, Alessandra Moctezuma, in the form of deep gratitude, not only for Davis and his many contributions, but also for Moctezuma and all she has done to build beauty and community in a place too often dismissed as culturally empty . As a curator, artist, and professor who helps run a gallery on the San Diego Mesa College campus, Moctezuma is a powerhouse at organizing people and events as only an artist-activist can.

Upon hearing the news about Davis, I also reached out to Moctezuma to offer my condolences and appreciation. I also asked if she would be willing to record an audio ofrenda about Davis for a special Día de los Muertos episode of The Times podcast, and she did. It was moving and, among other things, inspired me to put more effort into connecting with my postman (listen to the audio below and you’ll understand why).

Moctezuma also told me more about the Day of the Dead altar that she and her family built for Davis this year. Each object and photo on it has a special meaning and memories of Davis. Here she explains each of them in her own words and also describes what Davis left her (with very slight modifications for clarity).

Our ofrenda for Mike

There have been so many wonderful tributes to Mike – so eloquent about his work. But I thought it would be special to have something from us – it’s such a part of what an ofrenda is. You know, it’s just very personal.

[To Mike:] We thought you would still be with us at Christmas, but recently you were hesitating about being there to hear the results of that November election. I know you’d be happy that Lula won. On this Día de los Muertos, your children and I honor and remember you with:

In addition to the formal portrait, there are pictures of our travel adventures:

Standing next to the ‘Utopia’ sign we found while driving through New Zealand in the middle of nowhere.
Raising his fist through a graffiti that reads “Revolt” in a New York yard. You always like to wear red.
Arouse interest in geology: in front of a cliff in Newfoundland.

There are some of your favorite things:

A portrait of FDR
An IWW patch
A bust of Engels
The plumerias from our years in Papa’aloa, Hawaii
Your glasses. Your speedball pen that you always left open

There are the traditional flowers cempasuchitl, water and salt. And the drinks and food you loved:

Oatmeal because you were a good Irishman
Mexican hot chocolate
Irish Cream (Costco’s was cheaper and better than Bailey’s)
And Coke Zero with the anarchist red and black

Let’s imagine you are driving your Ford truck on a graded road. Look for this eclogite metamorphic rock and hear Coltrane as you round the bend.

Mike is ofrenda for us

Mike was the kind of person who read the news even on the last day. He was someone who always wrote because he believed that the world could be made better – not by ignoring the problems in it, but by pointing them out.

He wasn’t just an academic. He was someone who was part of the real world. Our postman just came by asking for him and he was so sad. Mike knew everything about his life. He knew his wife was ill. He just wanted to connect with everyone. I think I learned from him what our children learned from him. Everyone is important. We have to listen and take care of each other. That carries me through.

The last six years have been really tough. Where I have found strength, and also our children, is the love Mike has shared with us and with all the people he has helped. Also the people who inspired him. He has always loved making bumper stickers to put on cars. The last one he produced in the summer said, “Under each other’s protection we survive.”

Also, hundreds of emails have hit his inbox every day since he announced in July that he was going into palliative care. All those emails – he printed them out and saved them for our kids and for me. To just show off all the lovely notes of appreciation.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-11-04/what-mike-davis-family-put-into-his-ofrenda-and-why Mike Davis’ widow on what’s in his Dia de los Muertos altar

Sarah Ridley

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