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Día de los Muertos: New Exhibition Coming to the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Starting on September 3, the Grand Rapids Public Museum will be home to "A Celebration of Souls: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico," an exhibition that shows how Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico's Oaxaca region
A bunch of yellow tulips

A bunch of yellow tulips /Ann-Marie Jurek

What is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos, known in English as “The Day of the Dead,” is a Mexican holiday centered on remembering those who have passed on and reuniting the living with their deceased loved ones. The origins of the holiday stem back to a month-long summer festival honoring Mictēcacihuātl, the Aztec goddess of the dead. Once the Spanish brought Catholicism to Mexico and attempted to erase Mexican culture and religion, the Catholic Church moved this celebration to late autumn, splitting it between the Catholic holy days of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. The Mexican people opposed the Church's attempts to destroy their beliefs and continued to celebrate their own traditions while adopting some aspects of Catholicism.

Today, the holiday continues to be celebrated over the course of two days -- the first being Día de los Angelitos (dedicated to the remembrance of deceased children) and the second being split between Día de los Difuntos (dedicated to the remembrance of deceased adults) and Día de los Muertos (dedicated to the remembrance of all deceased people). The unique amalgamation of Aztec, modern Mexican, and Catholic traditions has resulted in the remarkable holiday we see today.

Día de los Muertos falls on November 1 and November 2 and will be celebrated in cities, towns, and villages both within and outside of Mexico.


The Upcoming GRPM Exhibition

In a press release published on July 14, it was revealed that Día de los Muertos will be making its way to the Grand Rapids Public Museum in the form of a new exhibit on loan from Chicago's Field Museum. The exhibition is called A Celebration of Souls: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico and includes twenty-six photographs from Día de los Muertos celebrations in the Oaxacan region of southwestern Mexico. According to the release, these images illustrate the various traditions involved in this holiday -- from "scattering trails of marigolds to guide the dead home" to "candlelit home altars, public processions, and rich offerings of food." The museum is also planning to have ofrendas set up at the exhibition -- in partnership with Nuestra HERencia and other members of the community. One such ofrenda will be dedicated to Francisco Vega, a "leader in the Latino community of West Michigan and a grassroots organizer for civil rights," by his daughter, Margaret. 

A Celebration of Souls: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico will officially open to visitors on Saturday, September 3 and will remain at GRPM until November 27. For more information, visit the GRPM's website here.  

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