Journey Through Our Heritage
Breckenridge 2014 DOD
Article by krista Driscoll on SummitDaily, Oct. 24, 2014
In partnership with Metropolitan State University Denver’s Department of Chicana/o Studies and Colorado Folk Arts Council, Breckenridge Creative Arts will host a two-day celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25, on the newly completed Breckenridge Arts District campus.
The celebration will feature a variety of classes and family activities with bilingual instructors from MSU. Throughout Mexico and around the world, Dia de los Muertos brings family and friends together to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. Far from a morose affair, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration rich in traditions and connections, a heartfelt festival of life.
“We are excited to share our new campus facilities with our entire community,” said Jenn Cram, manager of the Breckenridge Arts District. “Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration of life, culture and creativity, so we invite everyone to come out and experience the traditions of this colorful holiday, from ofrenda-making to mask workshops to helping build a celebratory altar to honor loved ones.”
The event will feature a variety of classes for adults and children. The message of the Día de los Muertos activities is that we all have indigenous backgrounds that connect us, said Dr. Renee Fajardo, coordinator for the MSU Denver’s Journey Through Our Heritage (JTOH) program.
“Every single culture throughout the whole world has a way that they honor their dead, their beloveds that have passed on,” she said. “We have traditional art forms — mask making, sugar skulls — but what we’re trying to get everybody to realize is everyone is also connected through the death process. We all have people that we love; our ancestors built a foundation. Nobody got here without having ancestors that worked and procured an environment where we were able to live and prosper.”
Family-friendly workshops include sugar skull decorating on Friday, Oct. 24, where participants will receive an introduction to the customs of Dia de los Muertos and the symbolism of the iconic sugar skull. Mask making will also be offered to families on Saturday, Oct. 25. Participants will learn how to decorate their own unique Day of the Dead mask inspired by sugar skull face painting.
“We’re also going to talk about the significance of sugar skulls,” Fajardo said. “How the Spanish colonials changed the original Aztec traditions and everything adapted. In order to survive, people have to change and adapt, or you wouldn’t be here. Everything we will work on will have a history, a story, to get people to reflect on how we are really all connected. That’s the whole philosophy: a holistic view of how we’re all connected.”
Geared toward a more adult experience, the ofrenda workshop on Friday, Oct. 24, offers participants the opportunity to create a small shrine dedicated to a lost one while learning about the traditions related to this art form. In the Dancing Catrina Workshop, offered on Saturday, Oct. 25, families will learn about the history of “La Calavera Catrina (Elegant Skull)” and will create their own dancing “catrina.”
ALTAR FOR LOVED ONES
Breckenridge Creative Arts will host a community altar in the Randall Barn on Saturday, Oct. 25. Creating these altars is one of the most important traditions during Day of the Dead in Mexico and in Mexican-American and Latino communities worldwide.
“We’re going to have the entrance to the altar so it’s an archway, where the spirits come through,” Fajardo said. “We’re going to bring the flowers, the candles, and we’re going to be making these little tiny skull notepads that you can come in and color on these skulls and write a message to your loved one.”
The altar will contain the traditional components of fire, water, earth and air to welcome ancestors, Fajardo said, and the community is invited to bring photographs of loved ones and flowers to place on the altar. Instructions and history of the altar will be given to visitors throughout the day in both Spanish and English.
“Say you had your grandpa and he was addicted to Hershey’s bars,” Fajardo said. “You could bring a note for your grandpa and a little Hershey’s kiss up there — any kind of food that they like that’s not going to spoil. They can bring fresh flowers, basically anything that they feel is important to the one that they are honoring.”
Fajardo said that though the ski industry is an important part of the economy of Summit County, it’s important for locals and visitors alike to realize that the area has a deep, abiding history from all of the people who came here before us, and Dia de los Muertos is a time to celebrate that.
“I think it will give the people who are new to Summit County a perspective of how deep our history is here, the complexities,” she said. “We’re hoping to reach out to some of the first-generation immigrant families to let them know that we understand that your traditions have followed you up here, you’re in this new place, and the old people are still here, but we all have this one thing connecting us together and we’re all part of this beautiful unfolding book of life.”