Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is being celebrated with a week of lectures, music, exhibits, and more at Instituto Espanol (116, 186, 31). When you arrive at the landing point, you will see the sign, a small altar, and a trail of orange flowers. Go west, turn the corner, and descend the steps to find the Exhibit Hall. Along the way you can pick up a festive t-shirt to wear to the exhibit, too.

Traditionally this holiday is celebrated by constructing altars to remember and honor deceased loved ones. Malu Zhao constructed a beautiful altar in the middle of the exhibit. It features candles, food, and photographs of loved ones. On both sides of the altar are paintings and other works of art depicting Dia de los Muertos. The traditional symbols of this holiday are skulls, skeletons, and Catrinas, a female figure made famous by artist José Guadalupe Posada.

Ms. Zhao also explains the history and modern celebrations of this Mexican holiday on notecards that you can find near the altar. She writes, “The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. ... Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.”

The Instituto Espanol teaches Spanish to SL residents in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Groups. For Día de los Muertos the three groups are competing to see who can decorate the best altar. Visitors can vote, and the winner will be announced at the closing ceremony. The Basic Group was ahead in the competition when I visited, but that may change.

All of the altars are festive and fun, with lots of dancing skeletons and Mexican food to sample. I lingered a while at the altar of the Intermediate group, who gave out drinks of Bombay Sapphire along with samples of comal con tortillas and pizza margherita.

Eugenia Calderon, one of the Spanish teachers, has prepared a presentation and lecture on the traditions and meanings associated with the holiday. Her presentation, which is also on display at the Exhibit, is in Spanish but includes lots of pictures.

The Celebration will continue through November 2, ending with a fiesta at 8 p.m. SL time. A full schedule is found near the entrance to the exhibit.

Grey Lupindo

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