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Volume 69, Issue 47, Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Museums bring life to Day of the Dead

Museum Moment

Christian Schmidt

If Halloween isn't quite your thing this year, you might try celebrating a different holiday this weekend. Several local organizations are holding celebrations this weekend for <I>Dia de los Muertos<P> (Day of the Dead) with a variety of events to celebrate the traditional Latin American holiday.

The Lawndale Art Center is celebrating the holiday by making a community <I>ofrenda<P>, or altar, and invites guests to the museum to bring personal items from their departed loved ones to add to the altar.

Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts is holding Day of the Dead festivities of its own at the organization's headquarters, located at 1900 Kane St. Both events are free and open to the public.

Day of the Dead is a traditional Latin American holiday celebrated Nov. 1 and 2. The holiday celebrates the continuity of life and is a time when families remember deceased loved ones. 

It's based upon a traditional Mesoamerican (from the region extending from north central North America to Nicaragua) holiday that celebrated the goddess Mictecacihuatl (the "Lady of the Dead").

The Lawndale Art Center will be brimming with the Halloween spirit this weekend, offering a number of events to celebrate Dia de los Muertos.
Photo courtesy of Lawndale Art Center

With the coming of the Spaniards into Mexico, the holiday was incorporated into the Catholic holidays All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). Observation of the holiday in Mexico and throughout Latin America usually blends traditional Mesoamerican rituals with the Catholic faith.

In addition to Lawndale's community altar, the center will also host what it calls a "literary ofrenda." The event, titled Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, will feature the works of a number of Latino writers, both local and from across the nation, in honor of the noted Latino poet Pablo Neruda.

Neruda, whose real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971 for his collected works of poetry, titled <I>Obras Completas<P>, or collected works. His poetry reflected his deep interest in the social and political issues of both his native Chile and Spain, where he spent much of his adult life.

The center kicked off its Day of the Dead festivities with a reception and auction last weekend. The work of several dozen local artists was auctioned. Proceeds went to the artists and to help support the center.

The works of art were modern artists' renditions of <I>retablos<P>, a traditional Mexican art form of devotional painting.

"MECA Day of the Dead Festival: Honoring our Past, Celebrating our Future" will offer a number of traditional Latin American festivities: an exhibit of altars, a memorial labyrinth, an auction, a procession and a variety of traditional Latin American foods will be served.

There will also be performances from a number of musical and dance groups including Mariachi MECA, the Colombian Folkloric Ballet of Houston, the Uzori Russian Dance Troupe, the Kuumba House Dance Theatre and MECA Ballet Folklorico.

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