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Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

November 1, 2013

One of Mexico’s most important holidays is upon us–Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead! This popular holiday began centuries ago, and, although a celebration based on skulls and skeletons may appear a tad morbid, Dia de los Muertos is actually quite a festive and joyous time. Many of the Mesoamerican civilizations that flourished hundreds of years ago (like the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs), believed strongly in the cyclical nature of life and death. This ancient belief resulted in a celebration of death, rather than a fear of itDeath is viewed as simply a continuation of life, and holidays like Dia de los Muertos are observed in order to celebrate and honor those who have passed away.

Máximo Pacheco, The Zocalo, 1929-1936

Máximo Pacheco, The Zocalo, 1929-1936

There are many things you can do to join in on the celebration this weekend.

Creating an Ofrenda – These small, personal altars honor loved ones who are no longer with us. They are decorated with flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person being remembered. Luckily the DMA store has many items that can beautify any ofrenda.

Decorating Gravesites – The activity of cleaning and decorating the graves of deceased loved ones has become a festive tradition, with family members congregating to adorn the sites with photographs and flowers as well as the person’s favorite food and drink. Many artists are captivated with the beauty of Mexican cemeteries and have included them in their artwork over time.

Sharing Stories about the Deceased: Part of honoring the dead is sharing stories about their life, particularly funny anecdotes. It is believed that the dead do not want to be thought of in a sad or somber way, but instead remembered and celebrated. So in this light, I wanted to celebrate and shed some light on the artist Frida Kahlo. Kahlo is most well known for her self-portraits. But of her 143 paintings, did you know that 55 are self-portraits that feature her treasured animals? After her life-changing traffic accident, Kahlo channeled her energy and emotions into her artworks and her many pets–monkeys, dogs, birds and a fawn–which lived at her home, in Coyoacán, Mexico City. To celebrate her love of animals, I placed a representation of my cat next to a bust of Kahlo.

Whether as a personal experience, family event, or social gathering, I hope that you are inspired this weekend to celebrate your loved ones as part of the Dia de los Muertos holiday!

Artworks shown:

  • Máximo Pacheco, The Zócalo, 1929-1936, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase
  • Dean Ellis, Aspect of a Mexican Cemetary, 1950, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase
  • Jerry Bywaters, Mexican Graveyard, 1939, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. H. Belo Corporation and The Dallas Morning News
  • Frida Kahlo, Itzcuintli Dog with Me, 1938, Private Collection

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

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  1. an artist in everyone

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