El Dia de los Muertos in the U.S. Border Region


El Diá de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of ancestors that can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. The holiday comes to life in the U.S. border region with many artistic achievements and cultural celebrations, especially right here in Tucson. El Diá de los Muertos focuses on the gathering of friends and family to pray for and remember those who have died is particularly celebrated in Mexico, however many of Tucson’s community museums, gardens, art galleries and more host events to observe the holiday. The celebrations take place in connection to the Catholic holidays on Nov. 1 (All Saint’s Day) and Nov. 2 (All Souls Day.)

Much of the artwork related to the holiday is Halloween-like. Traditions include building private alters, known as ofrendas, honoring the dead along with skulls, marigolds and the deceased’s favorite food or beverage. Many of these different forms of traditional art associated with the holiday, local Tucson residents and visitors can witness first hand. I have listed just a few of the many talks, exhibits and celebrations that will take place in our community this year.

  • Tomorrow the University of Arizona will host an El Diá de los Muertos talk at  5 p.m. in Life Sciences South room 340. Jesus Garcia, education specialist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will speak on El Diá  de los Muertos.
  • Tohono Chul Park’s El Diá de los Muertos Exhibit presents a versatile array of art works created by regional artists paying homage to the holiday. Along with contem­porary paintings, photographs, quilts, and artful works that link us as human beings in dealing with death, loss and remembrance, the exhibit also has a community ofrenda, allowing visitors to participate by leaving a token memento in tribute for their departed loved ones. There are roughly 20 artists who have participated in the exhibit which runs through Nov. 6.
  • Beginning today, Oct. 10, La Pilita Museum presents a Diá de los Muertos community altar created by schoolchildren, and a little shop offering icons and holiday-related items. Also, the museum will have an El Diá de los Muertos presentation and book signing on Oct. 22.
  • The Tucson Botanical Gardens will host an exhibit of El Diá de los Muertos related, papier-mâché artwork in their Barrio Garden. Exhibit dates are Oct. 18 through Nov. 20
  • The Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop will  host an annual homage to El Diá  de los Muertos, with artists participating in the cultural celebration in the tradition of the Hispanic Southwest.  Personal tributes in the form of  altars, ofrendas, paintings, sculpture & mixed media work will be displayed. The exhibit will take place Nov. 2 through Nov. 26.
  • Of course let’s not forget the All Souls Procession, which has been an annual Tucson event since 1990. It is one of the most important, inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today thanks to local Tucson artist Susan Johnson. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed. The public procession of walkers, dancers, drummers, and stilt-walkers through downtown Tucson takes place on Nov. 6.

Stay tuned to Borderbeat for more on the All Souls Procession in the coming weeks!

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