Celebrations of el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, come in multiple flavors and multiple times and places in the Twin Cities this weekend. The holiday, which occurs on the Catholic All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2), also has roots in Aztec history, where rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors can be traced 2500-3000 years. While Day of the Dead traditions vary from family to family, certain symbols have become associated with the holiday, such as calacas (skeletons), ofrendas (altar-like shrines for the dead), and candlelight processions. Twin Cities celebrations range from very traditional to artistic and politically charged variations to the holiday.
Thursday, October 30, 6-8 p.m. at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Reception for student artists from El Colegio, who have created exhibit of ofrendas.
If you’re looking for a traditional Dia de Los Muertos celebration, West Saint Paul has a whole day and evening of activities. On November 1 at the Wellstone Center in West Saint Paul, there will be a sugar skull making class in the gym from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Later, a procession begins at La Placita (175 Cesar Chavez Street) at 6:30 p.m. After the parade, a traditional Aztec Dance Ceremony at the Wellstone Center is followed by food, music and a bonfire.
A more message-oriented ritual will take place in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAC) will host a Día de los Muertos procession commemorating the immigrants who have died while crossing the US-Mexico border, while being held in detention, and as victims of hate crimes. The procession begins at 1 p.m. November 2 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church (2424 18th Avenue S.), and participants will carry crosses with the names or identities of individuals who have died. The procession will end at El Milagro Lutheran Church (3751 17th Avenue S.), where the crosses will be laid to rest, and a press conference will follow.
For a contemporary artists’ look at El Dia de Los Muertos, Altered Aesthetics stages a one-day event on November 2. The art show features 30 local and international artists, starting at 1:00 p.m. A candlelight procession begins at 8:00 p.m. at the gallery and will then travel around the neighborhood.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has an ongoing exhibit through November 9, featuring student artists from El Colegio. The Minneapolis charter school integrates research-based teaching strategies with Latino culture and traditions. Student ofrendas are displayed in room 110 of the museum. The students have used vegetable crates to create their ofrendas, which contain items such as flowers, pictures, bits of food, and calacas. The ofrendas in this exhibit feature the personal experiences of the young artists around the theme of immigrant workers in the field.
Centro, a Chicano and Latino cultural organization in Minneapolis, also offers a traditional Dia de los Muertos in the form of an exhibit of altars created by members of the community and through Centro’s educational programs. The exhibit runs through November 2 at 1915 Chicago Ave.
Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.