One of the most important and significant traditions for the Mexican community around the world is the Day of the Dead, which currently represents the journey from the underworld of our loved ones to the world of the living, where for a few days, we prepare to receive and live with the souls of our dead with altars that include traditional elements of this tradition.
For the Mexican community outside their country, celebrating this tradition becomes a doubly important date because, in addition to celebrating one of the most significant traditions in their culture, it is also an emotional moment to reconnect with our country in various ways.
“Being part of this first Day of the Dead celebration in Wisconsin was very meaningful to me as a Mexican who needs to connect with my country, culture, and community when I’m away from home.”
Therefore, Mexican Folk Art Collective embarked on the adventure of having a Day of the Dead celebration together with Keewaydin Farm, McIntosh Library of Viroqua, and the Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee, and we created the first annual Day of the Dead celebration event in the Driftless region on October 16, 2021, with an agenda of community and educational activities that included the creation of collective altar of the dead, workshops for the whole family, pre-Hispanic dance, Mexican dinner and storytime for niñxs.
“Being able to share one of the most important and meaningful celebrations with a diverse community was very nice as people who attended and had not experienced a Day of the Dead before were willing to learn and be part of the activities that require the energy of the community.”
At this great celebration held at the beautiful Keewaydin Farm, people from all communities came together: families from Viroqua and neighboring towns in the region, students and teachers from Youth Initiative High School, and local Wisconsin businesses to celebrate an important Mexican tradition and honor our loved ones who are no longer with us.
Favorite moments of the celebration
– Collective Altar –
Among the highlights was the creation of a large collective altar adorned with cempasúchil flowers planted in the summer by Rufus and Joy of Keewaydin Farm. Over a thousand orange and yellow flowers brought the altar to life and were the stars of the show thanks to the flower arch built by Dana of Doubly Good Flower Farm and a great team of volunteers.
The altar was home to a variety of traditional Mexican elements such as papel picado (made by Youth Initiative High School students), copal, candles, pan de muerto, and Mexican handicrafts, as well as personal objects and photographs that attendees brought to remember the people who are no longer with us.
It was very meaningful to see children and adults gathered in the creation of a unique altar in the middle of the farm’s landscape and admire it while the sky gave us a brightly colored sunset. And at nightfall, contemplating the altar illuminated by candlelight accompanied by a performance by two human Catrinas that made us feel the meaning of the Day of the Dead.
– The Catrina Corazona –
Another favorite moment was the installation of a paper mache catrina: the Catrina Corazona, built and painted by Gabriela Marván, artist and creator of Mexican Folk Art Collective, signifying the love with which we remember those who have gone and return on Day of the Dead to celebrate with us. This sculpture of more than 4 meters high was the favorite of the attendees and was decorated with cempasúchil flowers by enthusiastic volunteers.
– Opportunity to share and exchange –
The workshop programming was a space for sharing through Mexican workshops to the participants and the community, and exchanging about Mexican culture and traditions.
Attendees had the opportunity to connect with the meaning of the Day of the Dead by painting cardboard skulls created by Gabriela Marvan and Raziel Sanchez of Mexican Folk Art Collective, and students from Youth Initiative High School.
They also created flowers made with corn husks in the workshop taught by artist Yesica Coria, from the Mexican Folk Art Collective, to decorate their altars and learn about the importance of corn in Mexican culture.
They learned about the process of corn nixtamalization together with Julian and Heidi from Tortilleria Zepeda and tasted tejuino, a traditional Mexican fermented beverage made from corn.
We had a moment for children by the McIntosh Library of Viroqua and the Consulate of Mexico in Milwaukee with a bilingual story hour and a donation of books in Spanish.
And we witnessed an Aztec dance performance by Alejandra Jimenez of Ometochtli Mexican Folk Dance Company.
– A special Mexican dinner –
Finally, to close a magical evening, Ryan and Mary from Driftless Cafe along with Trisha and Julie from Driftless Curiosity, and the Garcia family, prepared a delicious Mexican dinner with mole, tamales, pozole and pan de muerto that brought emotions to the attendees and the Mexican community was able to enjoy a familiar taste of home.
A new celebration in 2022
The first annual Day of the Dead celebration event in the Driftless region was a great space for cultural encounters and coexistence where the energy and participation of more than 60 volunteers and 400 attendees made it a memorable event and one that we are looking to repeat in the coming years, in fact, we have already begun preparations for the second event in 2022! So if you are interested in joining us as a workshop leader, volunteer, or in any other way, please write to us at: email@example.com
Special thanks to our sponsors: Driftless Cafe, Peter Cozad Photography, Keewaydin Farms, Driftless Curiosity, Vernon Communications, Ometochtli Mexican Folk Dance Company, Tortilllería Zepeda, Youth Initiative High School, and Thoreau College Wisconsin Humanities.