Herminia Albarrán Romero learned the art of papel picado (Mexican paper cutting) as a child growing up in the small Mexican village of San Francisco de Asís, south of Mexico City. The intricately designed paper cuttings and paper flowers are used in Mexico on special occasions such as quinceañera (coming out ceremony for 15-year-old girls), weddings, Cinco de Mayo, and especially Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). She is also known as an altarista, a creator of altars and offerings that might incorporate paper decorations, personal mementos, and uniquely designed breads.
In 1981, Romero moved to the Mission District of San Francisco where she has continued to practice her art form and teach younger students. Recognized as a master artist, her work has been featured in exhibitions at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, the Oakland Museum, the Heard Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. In one of her exhibitions, she created an elaborate altar and lined the walls and ceiling with more than 800 paper designs.
In 2002, the city of Cuernevaca, Mexico, invited her to set up an altar in the city's central plaza. In an exhibition catalogue, Romero states: "In creating my works for Dias de los Muertos, I am joyful as I sense the near presence of my loved ones. When I create papel picado and paper flowers, I again experience those childhood moments near my beloved mother and grandparents who also worked at these crafts. I feel connected to the love they have for me even in death and this is why I feel such a great joy within me.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency