Rosa Lopez Killips was loved by many. An ofrenda was built by her brother, Lorenzo Lopez, to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
LANSING, MI -- Lorenzo Lopez, the brother of Rosa Lopez Killips worked diligently to build his Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead 2020) ofrenda in honor of her memory.
Lopez says, “It's difficult at times for me to talk about my sister since she and I shared so much. My sister supported me in all I did and I supporter her in all she did. She was a great dancer, organizer and overall good person. She was very proud of her Mexican heritage and understood the need to learn and share with the world.”
Lopez said it was their close relationship that kept him going at times and that it is going to be difficult without her in his life.
“Whatever she needed from me I was there and whatever I needed from her, she was there. She was a greater supporter of LGBTQ rights and human rights in general. She helped everyone regardless of their status in life, race or employment status.”
The items on the ofrenda are representative of Killips according to Lopez. He selected the pictures that represent her as a dancer a performer and teacher. He also added elements of her love for jewelry making.
Lopez says, “She made jewelry with love. It was a way to implement her designs that she created so that others could enjoy her creativity. I also included the ladies on both sides of the ofrenda, one looks like she is dancing and that to me is her.”
The Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Mexican celebration and tradition began during the pre-hispanic era of Mexico centuries ago. The concept is to celebrate life and death and to each year welcome back the souls relatives, family members who have died for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.
It is a blend of Meso-American ritual European religion, Catholic and is celebrated each year from October 31st, to November 2nd.
Every ofrenda exhibits the four elements, water, fire, wind and earth. Earth is represented by food, especially bread,(tortillas), candles generally are placed in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions so the spirts can find their way.
The cempasúchil, a type of marigold flower native to Mexico, is often placed on ofrendas and around graves. With their strong scent and vibrant color the petals are used to make a path that leads the spirits from the cemetery to their families’ homes.
Monarch butterflies play a role in Día de los Muertos because they are believed to hold the spirits of the departed. This belief stems from the fact that the first monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter each fall on November 1, which coincides with Día de los Muertos.
Calaveritas de azucar, or sugar skulls, along with toys, are left on the altars for children who have passed. The skull is used not as morbid symbol but rather as a whimsical reminder of the cyclicality of life, which is why they are brightly decorated.
Rosa Lopez Killips born January 9, 1949 in Lansing, Michigan, daughter of the late Eleuterio Lopez and Edelmira “Delma” Lopez passed away Friday, August 14, 2020.
Surviving are her husband, Robert and sons Robert P. (Kristen) Killips III and Nico Killips. Grandchildren, Emilia and Eagen Killips, brothers J.R. Lopez, Billy (Yvonne) Lopez, Jessie Lopez, Lorenzo (Ken Mullins) Lopez, Glenn (Donna Peterman) Lopez, Bobby (Sabine Browder) Lopez, and Perry Lopez.
Rosa graduated from Gabriels High School and attended Lansing Community College and Michigan State University. She worked as an educational program coordinator for the Lansing School District.
Rosa was a renaissance woman who was fiercely proud of her Mexican heritage and gave all of herself to her colleagues, co-workers, charities, friends, and family. Her passions and achievements were fueled by her need to help and serve others.
Great performing artists often recognize their passion as children, and Rosa was no exception. Her talent and spirit for Mexican Folkloric dance caught the attention of her instructors, which led to her first performance at the Mexican Patriotic Committee’s annual Mexican Independence celebration; a high-profile community event.
Her devotion to the art form opened opportunities for her to study and perform Mexican Folkloric dance with the world class dance company Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She also studied Flamenco with several world-renowned instructors in New York, Spain and Mexico. Wanting to pass on her cultural experiences, she became a Mexican Folkloric and Flamenco dance instructor. Her teachings exposed the Folkloric dance communities of Greater Lansing, Detroit, and Grand Rapids to art and culture that were previously unknown or inaccessible.
In her journey as a performer and educator, she discovered much more than technical mastery of her craft, she also realized the importance of raising cultural awareness in her community. She fronted several non-profit organizations focused on helping underserved areas of the Latino community through countless grant-funded programs and event fundraisers. This work positioned her for several leadership roles including: serving on the Cristo Rey Community Center Board, State of Michigan Humanities for the Arts Board, and various City of Lansing planning boards. She also wrote and reviewed grants for the Lansing Arts Council.
Her experience navigating politics revealed a need for activism, which she addressed head-on by playing integral roles in numerous boycotts and movements including the “Uvas No” (“No Grapes”) boycott spearheaded by Cesar Chavez. Her work in the Lansing School District as a community outreach program director demonstrated her life-long commitment to empowering women, the LGBTQ+ community, and under-served / resource-starved families.
With all of her contributions, she never sought praise or accolades. She tirelessly and selflessly worked on improving our community, all with kindness and grace. She is an ambassador of public service, performing arts, and Mexican culture.
Editor’s Note: Rosa was a great support to The New Citizens Press. She helped us obtain two grants for a journalism project for Eastern High School’s Latino Club. She will be missed.