September 30, 2005

Día De Los Muertos 12th Annual Commemoration In Sherman Heights Historic District

The community of historic Sherman Heights, the Sher-man Heights Community Center, and the Sherman Heights Neighborhood Cultural Council will commemorate Día de Los Muertos starting Friday, 30 September 2005, and concluding Tuesday, 1 November 2005.

One of the most beautiful celebrations in the Americas, Día de los Muertos is traditionally observed the 1st and 2nd of November.  However, the Sherman Heights Community Center will begin the commemoration with various workshops and events starting late September:

~Papier-mâché skull making workshops will be offered starting Friday, 30 September 2005, from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

~Sugar skull making workshops will be offered from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on three Wednesdays, 5, 12 and 19 October.

~On Friday, 14 October 2005, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., there will be a workshop discussing the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead.

~A highlight of the commemoration will be the weekend of 29 and 30 October. From 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., in coordination with neighborhood tours by the Sherman Heights Neighborhood Cultural Council, the Sherman Heights Community Center will exhibit over a dozen altars constructed by community members. The captain of a local dance circle will give the opening blessing and lead La Danza Azteca. 

~On Monday and Tuesday, 31 October and 1 November, school children will receive guided tours of the altars exhibit from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Center will then again be open to the public from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m.

~Other events throughout October will include presentation of the play “Entre la Vida y la Muerte (Between Life and Death).” Also planned is a workshop about writing calacas, satirical or humorous poetic epitaphs for living, well-known members of society.

An element of this year’s celebration at the Community Center is the fact that the bulk of the planning and execution is a true community effort—most of the labor and materials have been donated or obtained through community fundraising. The nonprofit Sherman Heights Community Center’s budget cuts have not dampened the community’s desire to continue its tradition of celebrating the lives of their departed loved ones.

Traditionally, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is commemorated at the departed loved one’s gravesite. Many of Sherman Height’s residents wished to continue this tradition, but found themselves far from home. Naturally, the tradition became rooted at the Community Center where altars are now constructed to honor family, friends, important historical figures, ideas and causes.

It has become a wonderful opportunity to preserve culture while expressing thanks and honoring the dead who have gone before them. Neither macabre nor morbid, Día de los Muertos is spent in joyous celebration with friends and family.  It is a special time to adorn the altars with ofrendas (offerings to the dead). These offerings can include, among other things, candles, tamales or other foods enjoyed by the deceased, a glass of water to symbolically refresh the dearly departed who is weary from traveling, the uniquely-scented cempasúchitl (marigolds), pan de muerto (orange and anise-flavored bread of the dead), calaveras de azúcar (decorated sugar skulls), and papel picado (colored tissue paper with cut-out motifs)

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