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From the Community Press

The Idea for Burning Hombre De Lagrima

Written by resident Shirley Brainard

After reading an article about Santa Fe’s annual ritual of burning their effigy of Zozobra, I had an idea. Maybe we, at La Vida Llena, could have an effigy to burn. I spoke with Penny Chavez, our Life Enrichment Director, & told her my idea, but that we couldn’t proceed without Joe Gomez’s approval, because of fire restrictions. Joe is Director of Plant Operations. We all met, & I told Joe of the idea, not expecting an OK. I mentioned that if we could do a burning, maybe Joe would ignite our effigy. Surprise! Joe said, “Let’s do it!”

I built the four-foot effigy, named Hombre De Lagrima, from cardboard boxes & paper. A lot of help came from assisted living staff, providing the big “body-box”, bed sheet for his outfit, idea of stuffed sanitary gloves for hands, & quips for collaging on the gloom box. The box was put in the main lobby for “Woes & Worries” to stuff inside to burn up with the effigy.

The idea grew- penny arranged for some New Mexico snacks – then, how about margaritas? The idea of a mariachi band was taken up by the offer of sponsorship from the New Mexico Historical Society, because of Joe’s affiliation. The event would be in the courtyard off the east atrium. Strings of lights were installed; fallen leaves were swept up; covered tables for over a 100 people set up by housekeeping, with colorful mexican sombreos decorating each table (by Penny); new mexican snacks prepared & served by dining services & bartenders for the margaritas obtained by Penny. 

Late afternoon of November 15, Sam from Plant Ops, a friend of mine & I assembled the effigy, which was set up on a barbeque grill, away from anything that might catch fire.

Residents & Staff began arriving & soon all the tables were full, lines were at the food & drink tables & a party atmosphere was forming. The mariachis began making music & I, on my balcony overlooking the courtyard, watched the festivities taking place. 

A bit before 6:30PM, the mariachis led Penny with the gloom box to the effigy, where she stuffed the box inside it. The band sang La Paloma Cucaroo & Joe stepped up to read “Thank-you’s & info about the event.” And then he lit Hombre De Lagrima to shouts of “Burn him! Burn him!” led by myself! Our La Vida Llena effigy went up in beautiful flames, taking all our grievances with him. 

This was the first event of its kind at La Vida Llena & will, perhaps, be repeated. It appeared to be fun for all.


Shirl Brainard, La Vida Llena Resident of 16.5 Years

November 18, 2023

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