Decorated sugar skulls, candles and bright yellow marigold flowers lined the vibrant three-tiered altar that represented a traditional ofrenda. The 26th Día de los Muertos exhibit at the El Museo Latino museum celebrates Day of the Dead, a special Mexican holiday that honors loved ones who have passed through ofrendas, or altars where offerings are made.
Each year the exhibit is dedicated to an artist. This year the museum selected Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist known for creating portraits inspired by personal experiences, nature and her culture.
Typically, an ofrenda will have a pictures of a loved one who has passed, food, a drink or candles. Flowers and anything that represents the person can also be added. Pan de Muertos, or Day of the Dead bread, is another traditional offering that is brought to an ofrenda.
Each item placed at an ofrenda is symbolic to a loved one’s journey, said Silvia Wells. “The water would quench their thirst, the food items would nourish them and the candles represent a guiding light—to guide them to and from your ofrenda.”
Most celebrants of Día de los Muertos set up their own ofrendas in their homes beginning in the early morning of Oct. 31 until the evening of Nov. 1. Offerings made at an ofrenda should not be removed while it is still up, said Wells. When an ofrenda is taken down, people can eat or drink what is still edible.
La Catrina, or the skeleton lady is a famous iconic figure in Mexican culture created by Jose Guadalupe Posada. The figure is also well-known in Day of Dead celebrations. Images and banners of La Catrina hung from the back of the exhibit.
Stephanie Barajas, a young mother of two originally from Mexico has celebrated Dia de los Muertos over the years.
“I’ve celebrated it by putting pictures up on an altar, candles and offerings like their favorite food, an article of clothing, playing their favorite music and telling stories. Usually it’s cold out so we’ll toast to them around a bonfire,” said Barajas.
“The Día de los Muertos was definitely more cultural, traditional and vibrant—all of which are very reflective of the Mexican culture and history. I really liked the different display items that were on the ofrendas, especially the intricately cut tissue paper,” said College of Arts and Sciences senior Selena Tafnag.
The exhibit will be up until Nov. 16. El Museo Latino is open until 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. General admission is $5 and $4 for college students.