The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is hosting a three-day free public program to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), with an after-hours event, performances, family activities and Mexico’s premier indigenous music ensemble, Pasatono. The Day of the Dead is a festival celebrated from midnight Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 by people in Mexico, parts of Central and South America and in many Latino communities across the U.S. as a way to honor family and friends that have passed away. This celebration originates from the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica, including the Mexica (Aztec) and Maya.
Día de los Muertos After Hours
Friday, Oct. 26; 6:30 p.m.
Visitors can celebrate Día de los Muertos after hours. The museum will open its doors for a free late-night event during the three-day festival dedicated to Día de los Muertos. Participants can dance to Mariachi Los Amigos with Mexican folk dance group Bailes de Mi Tierra and enjoy food and drinks available for purchase from the Mitsitam Café and Tico DC, including tacos, tamales, mescal cocktails, desserts and agua fresca. They can help create an interactive mural, learn to make paper marigolds and enjoy exclusive access to the galleries. More information and updates are available at https://bit.ly/2ycGAju.
Día de los Muertos | Day of the Dead
Saturday, Oct. 27; 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 28; 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
The end of October and beginning of November marks the end of the long southward migration of large numbers of monarch butterflies. The butterflies’ arrival in Mexico coincides with the observance of Día de los Muertos. This year the museum celebrates monarch butterflies through the creation of an interactive mural with Joaquin Newman (Yaqui/Mexica), butterfly luminaria and butterfly masks. Butterflies will also appear in a contemporary ofrenda celebrating the marigold paddler, an ancient Maya story interpreted by Evelyn Orantes (Quiche Maya) and traditional ofrendas by Oaxacan-born Lucina Flores (Mexica) and Puebla-born Luz Maria Reyes (Mixtec). Grupo los Tecuanes (Mixtec) shares cultural performances of Danza de los Tecuanes (Dance of the Jaguar) and Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Old Men). Support for this festival is provided by the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Afternoon Concert with Pasatono
Sunday, Oct. 28; 3 p.m.
Celebrate Día de los Muertos with Mexico’s premier indigenous music ensemble, Pasatono. Made up of musician-ethnomusicologists, Pasatono is dedicated to celebrating, reinterpreting and sustaining Native Oaxacan and Mixtec musical traditions. The concert is a collaboration of the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Mexican Cultural Institute, with support from Southwest Airlines.
Day of the Dead School Program
Friday, Oct. 26; 10:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Cultural experts will lead a series of vibrant performances, bilingual demonstrations and activities that immerse students in this traditional celebration. The program is free, but advance registration is required. Recommended for students in the third through sixth grades. Registration closes Oct. 19 or when capacity is reached, whichever occurs first. More information and registration can be found at https://bit.ly/2OknGkO. Support for this program is provided by the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
imagiNATIONS Activity Center
All children’s programs take place in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on level 3.
Note: Groups (e.g., school or home-school classes, daycare, camp or scout groups, etc.) are required to schedule entry time to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.
Cradleboards & Crawlers
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Space is limited; first come, first served. Recommended age: 0–2
There will be a pop-up space in the Activity Center where babies can practice their motor skills, engage with objects for new sensory experiences and play.
ExplorNATIONS: Day of the Dead | Remembering Loved Ones
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m.–noon
This 5-to-10-minute program repeats on demand. Recommended age: 0+
Families are invited to explore an ofrenda, or altar, that includes calacas (skeleton figures), copal (incense), marigolds and more.
imagiNATIONS Creations! Calavera Sun Catchers
Saturdays; 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Free tickets may be required; see Activity Center staff. Recommended age: 5+
Families are invited to create colorful suncatchers with a calavera, or skull, design. They can take their suncatcher home to hang in a window or decorate their own ofrenda for Día de los Muertos.
imagiNATIONS Story & Discovery: Día de los Muertos
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; 11:15 a.m.–11:45 a.m.
Recommended age: 3+
Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. The museum is continuing its observance with the October storybook Día de los Muertos, written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. Families are invited to learn about the traditions of Día de los Muertos, including ofrendas, sugar skulls, silly skeletons and more. As always, participants can stick around after the story for some interactive fun.
About the Museum
The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W.; open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25); Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and AmericanIndian.si.edu.
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