This is not a Halloween event – it’s a celebration of life that is important to many people in Mexico, other areas of Latin America and the United States. Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is being celebrated in many places, including right here in northeast Indiana at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
“Día de los Muertos is the biggest festival we have in Mexico,” said Fernando Zapari, editor and publisher of Fort Wayne’s locally-owned El Mexicano Newspaper.
During Día de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico, the lives of loved ones are celebrated by families and friends who decorate their grave sites with cempasúchil (marigold-like flowers), food, mementos and other favorite things from their lives.
“I love celebrating Día de los Muertos and remembering my loved ones,” said Zapari, who is remembering his own brother this year at this year’s celebration. “It’s important to keep the tradition alive in our own community.”
The festival is a national holiday in Mexico and traces its roots to the pre-Colombian era before Spanish colonization. It has been misunderstood at times outside of Mexican culture and is not Mexico’s version of Halloween but a day a remembrance of loved ones.
“When I grew up in Mexico, I used to go to the cemetery, clean the graves and just have a day there,” said Palermo Galindo, community liaison for the mayor’s office of the City of Fort Wayne. “There were so many colors of flowers and smells of incense.”
Here in Fort Wayne the gallery of the art museum is filled with alter displays remembering deceased loved ones or groups of people who have died for a cause or due to persecution or injustice. Many of these displays feature traditional symbols like sugar skulls, dancing skeletons and other remembrances created by artists, families and community groups in northeast Indiana.
“I’m really happy that the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has provided this opportunity to celebrate this important holiday,” Galindo said.
Not only does the celebration provide learning opportunities for people unfamiliar with Mexican culture, it also provides a chance for younger Mexican-Americans to reconnect with the culture of their ancestors.
“What I’ve personally seen are grandparents or parents bring the young generations and really explain, ‘oh, we used to do this back home,'” Galindo said. “It’s a connection that maybe was missing.”
The Fort Wayne celebration is getting bigger and better every year according to Zapari. This year’s family celebration features traditional music, dancing, costumed characters, food and children’s activities. The celebration is from 2:00 to 6:00 pm on Sunday, October 29, 2017.
In addition to the one-day celebration, “The Days of the Dead Altar Exhibit” is now on display at the museum gallery before and after the celebration until November 12, 2017.
Also on display at the museum is “Los Vivos y Los Muertos” featuring artwork from the collection of Dr. Gilberto Cardeñas, which the museum describes as “the finest work from the history of Latino art.” This exhibit is on display in the gallery until December 3, 2017.
On Thursday, October 26, Dr. Karla Zepeda will present a public presentation, “Day of the Dead in its Cultural Context” at the museum. The presentation begins at noon and is free with museum admission.
For more information on Día de los Muertos at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, please visit their website.
Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos 2017
Celebration – Sunday, October 29 – 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Alter Exhibit – Saturday, October 21 to Sunday, November 12
“Los Vivos y Los Muertos” – Through December 3
Free/Suggested Donation – $3
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
311 E Main St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802