According to an informative article on Home Altars in the Handbook of Texas Online, "The Mexican-American 'altarista' tradition . . . is linked to the history of altar-making by women, which is evident in the archeological record of pre-Columbian Mexico, Spain, and the Mediterranean." This photo from 1939 (taken near San Antonio, Texas, by documentary photographer Russell Lee) illustrates the practice in a simple home.
Anzaldúa considered the making of altars a vital part of her spiritual and creative practice. Many of the objects--such as figurines, masks, rattles, and candles--that she used in these altars are contained in the Gloria Anzaldua Altares Collection.