Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum Launches Second Annual Día de los Muertos Festival in Second Life

Participants in Virtual World Can Honor the Dead
October 5, 2010
News Release

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The Smithsonian Latino Center announces the second annual public program celebrating Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum’s Día de los Muertos Festival in Second Life is live Friday, Oct. 29, to Tuesday, Nov. 2. Participants will need an avatar; they can join and download software at

Día de los Muertos includes pre-Hispanic and Spanish customs and is celebrated in Latin America, particularly Mexico and Central America, and among Latino communities in the United States to honor deceased family and friends through altars called ofrendas and by decorating cemeteries and individual tombstones. Offerings include traditional foods, sugar skulls, marigolds, pan de muertos (bread for the dead) and the material goods the deceased enjoyed while alive. The purpose of the ofrendas is to encourage the departed souls to visit with families and friends.

Día de los Muertos is traditionally a two-day celebration: Nov. 1 is devoted to deceased infants and children, and Nov. 2 is dedicated to deceased adults. According to Melissa Carrillo, director of New Media and Technology at the Smithsonian Latino Center, the celebration has become more popular in the United States with the growing number of Latino communities. The second annual LVM Día de los Muertos Festival in Second Life allows visitors to create an online presence that embraces the spirit of this culturally significant practice and shares it with a global audience.

This year’s festival includes art, music and performances from artists and writers from across the United States, including a concert with award-winning artist Lila Downs and a marionette presentation for school groups by artist César Iván, streamed live from the artist’s studio Monday, Nov. 1. Other highlights include a community altar in the virtual museum’s Placita (town square) and a companion community altar in Virtual Native Lands, a partner site in Second Life that highlights Native American culture and practices. LVM resources include Smithsonian Latino collections, a user’s guide, glossary, lesson plans and resource links for educators. Teaching tools for teachers about key elements of the observance include the Spanish arrival, customs and beliefs, traditional dancing and the importance of the return of spirits.

The Día de los Muertos Festival in the LVM begins Friday, Oct. 29, with a cemetery procession in the Placita that takes participants through a virtual Spirits Path lined with marigolds.
All-day activities include “building your own altar” and a learning-altar demonstration for school groups. Special programming will include a literary program series and a 3-D Crystal Skull Dance Party.

One of the highpoints of the virtual festival will take place Sunday, Oct. 31, when the University of Notre Dame takes on the Smithsonian Latino Center in a meso-ball game tournament of life and death. The game will be played at the Ballcourt of the Sun located in the music island of the LVM. The Day of the Dead Ballgame Tournament, sponsored by the Walt Disney Co., is based on the first organized, ancient Mesoamerican sport played almost 3,500 years ago using a rubber ball. Festival participants are encouraged to learn more about the game by visiting

Other festival activities include a performance of poetry and music by Rincón Bohemio, streamed live from El Paso, Texas, Nov. 1–2, and a children’s storytelling time and workshop located at the virtual museum’s Placita.

To learn more about the 2010 LVM’s Día de los Muertos Festival in Second Life and download a detailed event schedule, the public may visit the Smithsonian Latino Center Dia de los Muertos event page or the LVM’s blog at

The Smithsonian Latino Center ensures Latino contributions to arts, sciences and the humanities are highlighted, understood and advanced through the development and support of public programs, scholarly research, museum collections and educational opportunities at the Smithsonian Institution and its affiliated organizations across the United States. For more information, visit

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