Aztec tradition lives on in annual honoring of the dead on the border

EL PASO – Every year on the first day of November, Zulema Vargas Gutierrez sets up an altar atop a small display cabinet in her Northeast El Paso living room to remember her deceased son and husband. She places a black-and-white photo of her husband, Francisco, at the center. Next to him, she places a color photo of her son, Jaime, who is standing next to his twin brother, both of them in their baseball uniforms. She also adds a few meaningful items: a baseball, a bowl of Luck Charms – Jaime’s favorite cereal – and a red rose, symbolizing his love for working in the garden. Francisco Gutierrez died 43 years ago of a heart attack at 49 and Jaime Gutierrez died in 2007 of cancer at the age of 51. Every year at this time, Vargas Gutierrez prepares for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) by building an altar in her home to remember her loved ones.

Cook off settles title of El Paso’s top taco

As El Paso native Monica Maldonado sipped a refreshing aqua de horchato and sampled crispy chicken flautas at the 2015 Mexican Food Cook Off in Union Plaza, she admitted being a little embarrassed that this was only her first time attending the event. “While I was standing at the food truck I was talking to two ladies who came all the way from California to El Paso. It’s their third time coming here and I live in the North East and had never heard of the event up to this year,” Maldonado said. But many El Pasoans did turn out Sept. 18 to enjoy the festival atmosphere and sample the tastes of local restaurants like Desert Rustic Kitchen, Delicious, Molalam and Taquizas.