Days of the Dead Exhibit, 35th Anniversary Celebration

Los Dias de Muertos October 7 to November 5, 2006

More than just an annual exhibit of the Days of the Dead, it is an altar.

Many cultures have celebrations that commemorate their ancestors. Mexico’s celebration is the Days of the Dead; los Dias de Muertos. The Aztec people of Mexico did not fear death. Though life on earth was harsh, they envisioned an afterlife where warriors and children became hummingbirds and butterflies, where infants who had died at birth suckled at a heavenly nursing tree, where their dead were never judged but lived in eternal happiness, and where life was seen as a brief dream on the way to death, the only reality.

Days of the Dead, Tree of Life, painted ceramic, Izucar de Matamoros.
Days of the Dead, Tree of Life, painted ceramic, Izucar de Matamoros.

Today, the Days of the Dead can be a carnival. Children dress up in ghoulish costumes. They beg for treats like, Calaveras (candy skulls) and everyone buys pan de muerto bread decorated with a pattern of bones.

This is also a time for families to reunite to remember those who have died. People go to market to buy what is needed for the ofrenda or offerings, to the souls of the departed – special foods and other favorite items. Everyone goes to the cemetery to visit and clean the graves. Flowers and plants decorate the graves. All through the night, they pray and sing by candlelight in celebration of the Days of the Dead.

In the homes, altars are built for the offerings. Photos of the dead are carefully placed, surrounded by marigolds and cockscombs as well as their “favorites,” water, bread, fruit, salt, tobacco, and alcohol along with candles and copal. An old tradition of Folk Art is present in these altars. Sugar skulls, wooden skeletons, Calacas scenes depicting a very active afterlife, papals paper cut outs, straw skeletons, all manner of colorful ceramic skeletal figures and oftentimes, the Catrina wearing her grandiose hat and fancy dress with skeleton band in tow.

Days of the Dead, Wedding Party with Photographer, painted ceramic, Capula, Michoacan and Skeleton Cantina with Catrina, by Antonio Perez, Capula, Michoacan
Days of the Dead, With the Cats, fused glass, Marsha Huggins and Whats for Dinner Dear?, painted ceramic, Metepec

The Artists of Pacific Western Traders have contributed to the altar. You will see work from local artists as well as the Folk Arts of Mexico. The Altar will be on display from October 7 to November 5. Our hours of business are 10:00 to 5:00 Wednesday to Sunday.

Pacific Western Traders, 305 Wool Street, Historic Folsom, California.

Courtney Puffer is a writer and art dealer, who runs Pacific Western Traders with his father, Herb, in Folsom, California. Courtney is extremely knowledgeable about native American art and customs. Sadly, Courtney passed away on 17th September, 2008, while on a business trip, but his writing lives on at NewsBlaze.