Día de los Muertos event highlights traditions

pictures amid colorful decorations
An ofrenda stands in the middle of Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis with pictures to honor the people who've passed away.
Aaliyah Demry | MPR News

This week, families with roots in Mexico and parts of Latin America will celebrate Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It marks a day when loved ones who’ve passed away come back to visit with the living.

It’s commonly celebrated Nov. 1 for the children and the following day for adults.

Ahead of the celebration, Minnesota's largest Latino-led nonprofit organization, CLUES, hosted its annual Día de los Muertos event at Midtown Global Market.

Families participated in several cultural art activities, like creating their own mini altars or ‘ofrendas,’ learning the art of linenal cutting, while also making their own prints.

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“It’s kind of like making stamps — each reproduction looks unique and different and everyone gets to take it home,” said Constanza Gustavolira, a public community artist.

Hannah Erickson, associate director of arts and cultural engagement for CLUES, said it’s important to teach others from different backgrounds, and young people, about Mexican culture.

“We’re all about how can we educate about cultural traditions that can help us connect with our roots,” said Erickson.

Attendees also got to see live bands, dancers and singing performances. One particular act that won the crowd over was a dance group called Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca that consists of children and young adults who showcase Mexican culture through their costumes, hair and choreography.

Edgar Galvan, the group’s founder and artistic director, said they’re always performing, but because this day honors those who have passed on, this event stands out.

“To me it’s very important to keep them alive, even though they are past they are here in our heart and we believe that once you forget your love and you don’t share that with your younger generation they will lose their identity completely,” he said.

While people sat and watched the show they enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and Pan de muerto or Bread of the dead.

The owner of Manny’s Tortas, Manny Gonzalez, said it’s a tradition.

“The people that pass away come and visit us once a year and [are] there with us when we have this meal,” he said.

Overall, Erickson said her favorite moments from the event came from the art workshops.

“It’s so much fun to see the families of multiple generations get to experience traditional art forms you don’t often get to see out in the world,” she said.