Da De Los Muertos Community Festival 30919561615 O

Wed, Oct 16, 2019

Maria Walsh

Maria Walsh - Guest Services Coordinator

Celebrating Life & Death: Día de Muertos

Altars overflowing with candles, oranges, and sugar skulls. Faces painted like skeletons. 15-foot tall puppets leading a dancing crowd through the street. Marigolds everywhere. This is Día de Muertos.

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an annual two-day Mexican holiday honoring those who have passed away. At the beginning of November each year, people come together to welcome back the souls of their deceased loved ones. Through ritual, altar-making, food, dance, and music, past and present generations are reunited.

The origins of Día de Muertos (or Día, for short) trace back 3,000 years, a mixture of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican ritual, European and Spanish culture. Día is celebrated not only in Mexico, but around the world in communities with Mexican heritage. Altars are built in remembrance, adorned with family photographs and candles. Ofrendas (offerings) such as sweet breads entice the dead to return. Marigolds are the chosen decorative flower for Día. Considered helpful in guiding deceased family members back to the living world, marigolds are placed on gravestones and tucked into dancers’ hair.

The MAH has been celebrating Día de Muertos since 1996. Festivities began with altars displayed in the galleries and a collaborative community altar in the atrium. Then, in 2015 we welcomed Senderos, a local nonprofit that works to build community by sharing Latinx culture through arts and educational opportunities, as a leading partner in the festival. Today, Senderos brings the festival to life and we are there to offer our space, support, volunteers, and years of event planning expertise. Learn how you can co-create with us and bring your idea, passion, or celebration to the MAH here.

In 2016, we added a procession to Evergreen Cemetery that today is an integral part of the celebration. Mojigangas, giant colorful puppets brought to Mexico from Spain in the 1600s, lead the way alongside dancers and musicians. With a stop at the Santa Cruz Mission State Park for dance performances, the parade ends at the cemetery with food, music, performances, and a film screening.

Last year, the MAH's Día festival brought together a crowd of close to 800 people. With 34% of Santa Cruz County identifying as Latinx, Día de Muertos is an important holiday to our community that we are proud to offer alongside Senderos.

Colorful and vibrant, Día de Muertos is a beautiful celebration of family and community, both in life and death. Join the celebration on November 2nd. It is free and created for all ages to enjoy. We hope to see you there.