by Julie Cosgrove
Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of family memories that brightens early fall. In many communities, ofrenda, art and celebration mark the first two days of November.
For 25 years, the Ontario Museum of Art has collaborated with artists to showcase this cultural celebration. This year, the exhibit, “Dia de los Muertos, Recuerdos de Sabores,” continues until November 18, giving us a chance to view artwork that includes student art from local schools.
Dia de los Muertos, according to Museum assistant curator Samantha Herrera, has roots in the the Nahua people whose descendents populate Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras. It has become the custom to create altars, or ofrenda, honoring the dead, decorating them with pictures and offerings of food and flowers, especially marigolds. It is a joyful remembrance, not a mournful and sad occasion. Artist, contributor and teacher Xavier Cezares Cortez has noticed that we have today create “contemporary variations.” That is ofrendas that allow us to honor the history of our communities.
In downtown Los Angeles, for example, Dia de los Muertos allowed for commentary on community events. In Gloria Molina Grand Park, one of the ofrendas honors those who died in the shooting massacre in Monterrey Park and those who died in the recent wildfire that devastated Lahaina, Maui. The offerings included rice, soy sauce and Hawaiian hibiscus flowers.
There have even been ofrendas created in the White House (by first Lady Jill Biden) and this year, on the White House tours, the public was invited to leave a picture of a late loved one.
They have become community events. In downtown Los Angeles, for 35 years, the Olvera Street Merchants Association has offered parades, public ofrendas, dance and music. It is multicultural in many senses, including a Mayan blessing, Aztec dancers. This year the festivities began on October 25 and continued through November 2.
It was a family affair: