Sugar skulls, monarch butterflies and the ofrenda (altar) are all symbols of the Day of the Dead.
Photo courtesy Smithsonian Latino Center
The Smithsonian invites the public to celebrate Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, with a series of vibrant performances, lectures and family activities at its various museums and the National Zoo. The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico, Central America and in many Latino communities across the U.S. as a way to honor family and friends that have passed away. For a full calendar of Day of the Day events, visit www.si.edu/Events.
The Smithsonian Latino Center and the National Museum of the American Indian present the Day of the Dead Festival Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 29–30, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors will participate in hands-on activities, workshops and demonstrations with traditional artists, like papier mache artist Rubén Guzmán Campos (Zapotec). National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Verónica Castillo (Mixtec), celebrated for her ceramic árboles de la vida (trees of life), will create a special altar installation that demonstrates the range of styles and traditions associated with Day of the Dead. Award-winning Mexican American author Carmen Lomas Garza will demonstrate papel picado (traditional paper banners) techniques and give artist talks to contextualize Day of the Dead, from its indigenous roots to its contemporary, cross-cultural celebration.
Hands-on activities include virtual reality stations that tell the stories of “Flight of the Monarch: Return of the Soul” and “The Meaning of the Ofrenda as told by La Catrina.” The Smithsonian Latino Center’s ¡Descubra! Meet the Science Expert program will host a 3-D printing station of Day of the Dead symbols, such as sugar skulls. Performances include a cultural dance presentation by Grupo Los Tecuanes and a concert by acclaimed alternative Mexican folk band Las Cafeteras, who fuse the funky sounds of Son Jarocho and Cumbia, Sunday, Oct. 30, at 3:30 p.m. Support for this festival is provided, in part, by Southwest Airlines, Target, Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, with federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
The National Museum of American History invites visitors to view acclaimed Mexican American author and visual artist Carmen Lomas Garza’s ofrenda (altar) honoring her grandfather, Antonio Lomas. Lomas Garza created the installation in the Day of the Dead tradition using objects that remind her of her grandfather, like an aluminum cut-out depicting the elder Lomas tending to plants as he used to. Lomas Garza will give a gallery talk Friday, Oct. 28, at 11:45 a.m.
Visitors to the National Zoo’s Night of the Living Zoo will be able to participate in a Day of the Dead altar-making contest Friday, Oct. 28, 6:30–10 p.m. Competitors will create a table display that will be judged based on its creativity, cultural relevance, artistic design and the meaning behind the altar. There is a $15 registration fee to participate in the altar contest. The fee includes admission for two to Night at the Living Zoo, one parking space, two complimentary drink tickets, display space, tables and chairs. For the full contest rules, visit the Zoo’s event website.
The National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York City will celebrate Day of the Dead Saturday, Oct. 29, noon–4:30 p.m. Visitors can participate in activities such as embellishing paper skull masks, decorating skeleton puppets, creating paper flowers and painting plaster skulls. Performances include the New York City debut of Trío Tlayoltiyane, which means “The Creators” in the Nahuatl language, who will perform the musical style Son Huasteco from the coastal state of Veracruz, Mexico, in collaboration with Universidad Veracruzana, FONCA and Celebrate Mexico Now. Cetiliztli Nauhcampa will perform traditional dances around the community ofrenda.
The National Portrait Gallery presents Día de los Muertos celebration Tuesday, Nov. 1, 5–7:30 p.m. The evening will include traditional live music, dancing and art activities that commemorate the Day of the Dead in vibrant colors. The Maru Montero Dance Company will perform two energetic sets of Latin American folkloric dances, followed by local Mexican folk band Los Gallos Negros.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum presents a family day Saturday, Nov. 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors will enjoy traditional Mexican folk dance performances throughout the day while participating in hands-on activities, like adding their own artwork to a mural and leaving handmade ofrendas (offerings), including paper marigolds, calaveras (skull masks) and paper monarch butterflies, on a Day of the Dead altar.
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