Say ¡Bienvenidos! to Santa Fe’s second annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Said to have originated in Mexico, Día de los Muertos represents a time to honor and reconnect with the dead in a uniquely beautiful and meaningful manner. Join the commemorative events on the Santa Fe Plaza October 27 – 29, 2023. The event is free and all are welcome to honor loved ones who have passed and create new memories with family and friends.
Día de los Muertos History
Día de los Muertos has been celebrated in South America for centuries. Scholars believe the origins of this rare holiday – which celebrates, rather than mourns, death – go all the way back to the Aztecs. For at least a thousand years before the Day of the Dead celebrations we know today emerged, Aztecs used skulls to honor their dead. Today, skulls are a key symbol in the tradition now known as Día de los Muertos, as a way to honor and commune with those who have moved on to the next life.
When the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire in the 16th century, the Catholic Church adopted the indigenous celebrations and rituals honoring the dead throughout the year and moved them to the dates celebrating All Saints Day and All Souls Day, on November 1 and 2. As with all things traditional, the holiday evolved over the years to become something more than just a celebration of emigrating souls, maintaining many of the original symbols and rituals of the original.
Central to this traditional celebration is the ofrenda, a memorial altar created in honor of the loved one who has passed. Created and decorated by family members or friends, the ofrenda is festooned with a variety of offerings and mementos, such as photos, art, favorite foods, clothing, and other personal items. Anything necessary to make the spirit feel welcome after the long trip from the other side. A variety of ofrendas have been placed on the Plaza as sponsorships from local businesses, in the hopes that attendees will revitalize them annually.
Schedule of Events
Santa Fe’s second annual Día de los Muertos celebration kicks off on Friday, October 27, from 4 – 10 p.m., with traditional entertainment on the Santa Fe Bandstand. Live mariachis will pronounce joy throughout the Santa Fe Plaza beginning at 4:40 p.m. from the Bandstand stage, which will be gaily decorated with papeles picados, the colorful cut paper decorations seen at celebrations throughout Mexico. Other live music includes performances by singer/songwriter and New Mexico State Historian Rob Martinez at 5:25 p.m.; Las Flores del Valle, a women-fronted trio passionate about sharing many musical genres including boleros, rancheras and original songs, at 6:10 p.m.; Lone Piñon, a New Mexican string band or “orquesta típica,” whose music celebrates the integrity and diversity of the region’s cultural roots, at 7:25 p.m.; and The Mexican Standoff, a socially conscious, bilingual LA/Mexico-City based “alternative ranchero” band with a comedic twist, at 8:40 p.m.
Signature Mexican foods, with a New Mexican twist, will be available, along with decorative items that traditionally adorn ofrendas. Expect to see brightly colored masks, decorative skulls, and hundreds of marigolds!
On Saturday, October 28, celebrate from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., with strolling mariachis, ofrenda decoration tips, and food trucks with even more delicious Mexican food. Become part of the celebration by sponsoring and adorning you own ofrenda with memories, pictures, and other items of remembrance. Inspiration will be everywhere, and camaraderie will fill the square.
Free arts and crafts activities for kids will be provided by the Santa Fe Public Library and the Mexican Consulate for Albuquerque, which also provides a series of videos on Día de los Muertos traditions, from 1 – 3 p.m. Performances on the stage include Ballet Folklorico Santa Fe, at 5 p.m.; Teatro Paraguas at 5:20 p.m.; and Las Catrinas and Las Bruja, at 5:50 p.m. Bring a chair or a blanket to enjoy the free 6 p.m. screening of the animated Disney classic Coco, shown on two jumbotron screens thanks to the Lensic Center for the Performing Arts. There will also be free glow-in-the-dark face painting booths from 2 – 8 p.m., to help you prepare for the evening.
Once the sun sets, the historic Santa Fe Plaza will receive an Aztec blessing by Danza Azteca, beginning at 8 p.m.m before lighting up at 8:15 p.m. with a Glow-in-the-Dark Candlelight Parade led by traditional mojigangas, 8-foot Mexican puppets. With the Plaza aglow, live music will fill the Plaza from 8:30 – 10 p.m., thanks to the accordion-based band Frontera Bugalu, whose music embodies the new sound of the border, embracing both vibrant sides of the Rio Grande and beyond, reminding us to rejoice and dance with the memories of our loved ones.
Then, on Sunday, October 29, from 1 – 4 p.m., the Museum of International Folk Art will celebrate their annual Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead program. Among the events scheduled are free activities for the whole family, including decorating sugar skulls, sampling traditional Pan de Muerto, and viewing the Museum’s ofrenda installation by local artist Stephanie Riggs.
Other scheduled events include: At 1 p.m., author Leigh Thelmadatter will give a gallery talk about her exhibit Mexican Cartoneria: Paper, Paste, and Fiesta, with a book signing following. At 1 and 3:30 p.m., Los Niños de Santa Fe will perform.
For more information about Santa Fe Día de los Muertos, visit the website.
The Dia de los Muertos event is hosted by the City of Santa Fe, Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, and the Museum of International Folk Art.
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead