Dia de los Muertos exhibit at TF South teaches about Day of the Dead traditions

BY MELANIE JONGSMA

Carla Martinez served as a docent at the Dia de los Muertos exhibit. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
LANSING, Ill. (October 30, 2019) – “Remember me and I will live forever,” declared the large signs near the entrance to the fifth annual Day of the Dead exhibit at TF South. Students from the Spanish Class, Latin Dance Crew, and Dreamers hosted the exhibit on Wednesday, October 30, from 4:00–6:00pm. Admission was free, and authentic Mexican food was available for purchase from Taqueria la Soga.

Martha Muñoz is owner of Taqueria la Soga (19267 Burnham Avenue). She served traditional Mexican food at TF South’s Day of the Dead exhibit. Martha’s son Emiliano is a sophomore at TF South. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a multi-day celebration of family and friends who have died, and a remembrance of their spiritual journey. Originally a summer event, the tradition gradually became associated with the Catholic observance of All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls’ Day (November 2).

As a way of safeguarding Day of the Dead traditions and affirming their cultural significance, in 2008 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) declared Dia de los Muertos part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico. Intangible Cultural Heritage includes practices, objects, food, dance, oral history, and other elements of cultural identity that are conveyed from one generation to the next.

Ofrendas are a visual way to remember the dead, using photos, flowers, and favorite foods. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Decorating skulls (calaveras) is another way to show creativity and personality, similar to the Halloween tradition of carving jack-o-lanterns. Students had decorated these small skulls, and guests were invited to vote for their favorites. (Photos: Melanie Jongsma)

The October 30 exhibit at TF South included guided tours of ofrendas, or altars, created by the students. Ofrendas are central to Day of the Dead traditions, and provide a way for families to honor and remember loved ones, celebrities, or other deaths that have impacted a family’s life.

TF South is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.

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