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A Celebration of Dia de los Muertos at Casa de Arte
by Jill Greenberg
Day of the Dead
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican Americans. It takes place on November 2 in connection with the Catholic holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Besides a blend of Mexican indigenous traditions with European Catholic influences, the holiday also highlights the Mexican tradition of honoring ancestors. Traditionally altars are built and decorated with sugar skulls, marigolds (thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings), and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased.
To celebrate this holiday, Richard Williams and his wife Mara Odette Guerrero of Casa de Arte are presenting a group exhibition featuring altars, sculptures, and more.
Williams and Guerrero explain that the Aztecs played a very important role in the development of Day of the Dead; they believed that after a person died, his soul would pass through nine levels begore reaching its final destination. They also believed that a person’s destiny was determined at birth and that the soul’s prospects depended on the type of death rather than the type of life led by the person. Once they arrived at its specific destination, a soul would either await transformation or linger, awaiting its next destiny. The Spanish Conquest of 1521 brought about an amalgamation of pre-Spanish indigenous beliefs and the imposed ritual and dogma of the Catholic Church.
The artists featured in the Day of the Dead celebration exhibit at Casa de Arte have drawn inspiration from the history of the holiday and its traditional icons. Guerrero’s contribution to the exhibit includes a classic character in Mexican folk art, Catrina, a skeleton dressed to represent an upper-class lady of the turn of the last century, always depicted in her broad-brimmed hat. Catrina symbolizes La Muerte, or Death. The Day of the Dead altar will be completed during the reception as various local artists bring ofrendas, or offerings, and place them on the altar to honor their ancestors. Other featured artists are Lizette Arditti, Kenia Cano, Jorge Cardenas, Patricia Gomez, Grillo-Ivonne Mateos, Adriana M Ritter, Jorge Salort, Rick Williams, and more.
The Day of the Dead exhibit will be on view through November 13. This Wednesday (November 2), 6-9pm, Mara Odette Guerrero will present a lecture called “The Meaning of El Dia de los Muertos,” followed by a Day of the Dead reception.
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