Life in Death…

Annual Dia de los Muertos event celebrates deceased loved ones 

by: SARA MARSHALL/Photo Editor

Mexico is a country with a culture rooted deep in family traditions, especially holidays such as Día de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrates loved ones who have departed this world throughout Latin America, but is more commonly seen in Mexico. The living members of the families create alters of baked goods, paper flowers, sugar skulls, candles and photos of the departed to help welcome the dead. In Mexico, families fill the streets, singing and dancing to honor the loved ones who are believed to be visiting these alters from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

Los Hermanos Familia, a Lubbock, Texas nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting family engagement, sustaining culture and building awareness in the Latino community, hosted the fourth annual West Texas Latino Artist Exhibit and Día de los Muertos Celebración on Nov. 1 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Exhibit Hall to celebrate this auspicious holiday.

If participants came to the Día de los Muertos event in costume or with their faces painted, as many did, they received a discount on admision. All proceeds benefited family and children’s programs organized by Los Hermanos Familia, such as the children’s art area.

The West Texas Latino Artist Exhibit and Día de los Muertos Celebración honored the holiday and Mexican culture by showcasing the work of Latino artists, traditional and modern local performers, as well as a variety of vendors, with more than 3,000 people in attendance.

Upon entering the celebration, participants were greeted with the sight of brightly-colored vender booths full of Latino art, traditional Mexican food and popular sales vendors.

“We took over the event from previous years, and, overall, our organization has a strong connection to the community and more volunteers, so it was definitely bigger, and showcased and offered more activities and culture,” said Christy Martinez-Garcia, founder of Los Hermanos Familia.

Various Latino artists were showcased during the West Texas Latino Art Exhibit and Día De Los Muertos Celebración through displays of their work. Latino artists in attendance included Joey “Wize” Martinez, a graphic designer and graffiti artist, Melissa Nichole, a local tattoo artist based out of Lubbock, and Kelly J. Reyes, a local portrait and oil painter. Art vendors were selling several pieces of their collections and even offering information on how they created their works.

“I feel the event brought a lot of exposure for the artists,” Reyes said. “Being here to share my art with everyone was such a great opportunity.”

Mexican and Latino culture is very rich in music and dance, which was shared through many live performances during the celebration. Local musicians, mariachis and bands showcased both traditional and modern songs, while ballet folklorico groups portrayed the traditional dances of Día de los Muertos throughout the evening.

“We are still new, so it was a great way to showcase our group and give out information about us to people in the community,” said Jessica Rodriguez, co-manager of Mariachi Gema. “I feel like the event went very well. A lot of people came and had a good time.”

The celebration also included a variety of contests, such as a Día de Los Muertos cake decorating contest. The 12 contestants entered in the Día de los Muertos cake decorating contest had to create entirely edible cakes which reflected the key elements of Dia de los Muertos, such as sugar skulls, monarch butterflies and marigold flowers. Extra adornments needed were the sacred heat, pan de muerto, or dead bread, and papel picado, which is paper with elaborate cutout designs. The contestants were then scored on cultural, history, execution, and creativity by a panel of judges, who judged based on a separate cake to sample the taste, as flavor was a new addition to the score sheet.

“Día de los Muertos is about celebrating life, not death,” said Lisa Reyes, who won the Judges’ Choice in the cake contest. “My goal was to tell our story. We all lose people in our lives, and although it is very painful, their legacy continues. My cake was an altar-themed cake, with the focal point being the church that sat on top.”

Día de los Muertos altars, or ofrendas, were showcased near the vendors to honor those loved ones who have passed on. Families and adults, as well as college student organizations, the De Colores Girl Scouts and students from both Ralls ISD and South Plains Academy prepared each altar. Next to these altars, many vendors had booths set up with giveaways, free candy and information about their companies.

“I’m so impressed with everything,” volunteer Jo Ann Martinez said. “Everyone is showing their respect and amazing appreciation for our culture. It’s not that often people and artists can express themselves in this way.”

The children who attended the Día de los Muertos celebration were not excluded from the festivities, as many booths were set up specifically for them in the Children’s Area. Activities held in the Children’s Area were led by the De Colores Girl Scout Troop, along with the Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority and several other Latino groups. This area offered projects such as creating paper flowers, masks and Ojo de Dios crosses. Children also had the opportunity to have their face painted or to decorate their very own sugar skull.

By sharing the rich Mexican and Latino culture with the people of West Texas, Los Hermanos Familia brought the community together by hosting the West Texas Latino Artist Exhibit and Día De Los Muertos Celebración.

“As the Hispanic population continues to grow in the United States, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, has also started gaining traction, and businesses are paying attention,” Martinez said. “The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. For our local community, it is important to build awareness, more so, sustain culture and tradition.”

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