On Day of the Dead, Michigan communities celebrate life and Latino culture

Oct 28, 2014

Sugar skulls
Credit User: Michael Perini / Michigan Radio

We're coming up to Halloween, but as we get our bowls of candy ready and kids decide on their costumes for Friday night's trick-or-treating, some people in Michigan preparing for another holiday: Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos.

The holiday has spread from Mexico throughout the world, including here in the United States.

It coincides with All Hallows' Eve (Halloween to most of us), All Saints' Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls' Day on Nov. 2. 

It's a time to honor and pray for friends and loved ones who have passed away.

Jose Lara is an assistant professor of Spanish at Grand Valley State University and a member of the Latin American studies program. He says Day of the Dead is a tradition that not only honors those who passed away but also celebrates those who are still present.

In the U.S., people recreate the ritual that's been around since the pre-Columbian era by visiting cemeteries or constructing altars in open spaces or even in the home. To decorate the altars, people bring flowers, favorite dishes of those who passed away, and photos of their loves ones.

At GVSU, a workshop will be hosted on Thursday, Oct. 30 to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Local artist Rolando Mancera will lead participants from the campus community and share the meaning of the Latino identity and explain different symbols of the culture.

There are also events happening in southeast Michigan for Day of the Dead. The Detroit Institute of Arts will have an exhibit of altars made by local artists; it's open to the public and runs until Nov. 2.

* Listen to our conversation with Jose Lara above.