While the rest of the US is preparing for Halloween, in states like Texas that share boarders with our neighbor to the South, preparations also begin for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Colorful artwork and festive decorations incorporate macabre images of skulls, skeletons, coffins, and other images of death. November 1, or the Catholic feast of All Saints Day, and the following All Souls Day, are festive days to honor the deceased, a tradition associated with Mexican culture.
By tradition, the departed are able to return to this earth for a short time each year. Knowing that the dead, once returned, want to celebrate and enjoy their reunion with family and friends, the tradition also includes festivals and celebrations. Among the decorations are skeletons or calacas dressed in their best clothes, ready to dance, sing, and share good food.
One tradional creation is the private altar erected in preparation for a loved one’s return. These altars, or ofrendas, feature the favorite foods or treasured possessions from the deceased. Marigold flowers, skulls and other decorative items surround the photo or image of the person being honored.
At Metz Elementary in Austin, there’s long been community participation in the traditional arts of Dia de los Muertos. Classes work together to create a variety of ofrendas and place them throughout the school. This installation in the front lobby was guided by the school’s art teacher, Ms. Nusinow with children trying their hand at a number of traditional Dia de los Muertos objects. The ofrenda integrates the display case with images of Mexican folk art and images of celebrated Mexican artists, Frida Khalo and her husband, Diogo Rivera.
Metz Elementary School, 84 Robert T. Martinez, Austin, Texas