Let’s clear this up once and for all … el Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not the Mexican version of Halloween! While both annual celebrations have costumes and sweets and are centered around the dead, these holidays differ in belief and tradition.
Bursting with color and life-affirming honor, el Día de los Muertos is a two-day festival celebrating the reunion of dead relatives with their families. The life of the party are the ofrendas, or offerings! These ofrenda alters include pan de muerto, sugar skulls, marigolds and so much more. In Mexican culture, particularly in the Central and South regions, the first day of November begins a celebration of lives lived.
To commemorate this sacred tradition, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) hosts an annual exhibit, Ofrendas: Celebrating el Día de los Muertos. This free showcase will run from Friday, October 12 – Sunday, November 11. Anyone who is interested in Mexican heritage or has watched Disney’s Coco one too many times can enjoy the ofrenda alters. There’s even a Q&A discussion on Sunday, November 11, the last day of the exhibit, by selected artists to provide insights into the inspirations of their ofrenda alters.
This is the DIA’s third year hosting an ofrenda showcase. In partnership with Consulado de Carrera de Mexico en Detroit, the ofrenda exhibit is a collection of alters created by local artists inspired by this Mexican tradition. The ofrenda alters consist of the lost loved ones most prized possessions. From favorite foods and drinks to pictures and mementos, the alters are decorated in an elaborate display of papel picado, candles, toys and any other objects that remembers and celebrates them.
The origins of this spiritual festival can be traced back at least 3,000 years to Aztec mythology, which was viewed as sacrilegious by Spaniards. Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the festival took place in the beginning in the summer. Gradually, this tradition coincided with Catholicism’s All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day, occurring October 31 – November 2.
As a reclamation of cultural preservation, this Mexican tradition survived and continues to evolve as it prioritizes multicultural connection and national consciousness. Since Mexican culture recognizes death as a natural part of the circle of life, they do not mourn in loss. Rather, the deceased are honored through a two-day festival just as vibrant as the lives they’ve lived.
Day one, known as Día de los Inocentes, or Day of the Innocents, begins at midnight on October 31. The first day of November is dedicated to honoring children. It is believed that the gates of the spiritual world are opened, and all the spirits of the children are able to reunite with their families for 24 hours.
Day two is Dia de los Muertos, which takes place at midnight on November 1. The second day of November is dedicated to honoring adults. Once again, the gates of the spiritual world are opened, and the adults have 24 hours to spend with family.
El Día de los Muertos is more than just skeleton painted faces … it’s a celebration of reconnection. While those whose presence on earth is gone, they are never forgotten as long as this Mexican tradition is undying.
So, what are you waiting for? Make your way to the DIA and join the afterlife party.
This is FREE event!
Friday, October 12 – Sunday, November 11
Sunday, November 11
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Located at the DIA:
Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202