Paul Schlesinger / The Collegian
Fresno State student Maria Gonzalez of the Irene Gonzalez Project dances folklorico during the Cala Gala at Arte Americas in Downtown Fresno on Sunday.
For 27 years, Arte Américas has celebrated the rich cultural tradition of Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, and once again Sunday brought to life a somber, yet festive evening that celebrated the ancient, indigenous tradition.
Día de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that celebrates the belief that, once a year, deceased loved ones are able to reconvene on earth and celebrate once again with the living. According to tradition, although they are not visible to the human eye, they take comfort in their families’ remembrance and are saved from suffering eternal despair.
The global tradition, which is celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, ended in the culmination of the Arte Américas’ “Cala Gala.”
Frank Delgado, the Arte Américas executive director said that the event is both a celebration in remembrance of loved ones lost, and an opportunity for community and family members to gather and celebrate as an expression of identity and art, only grows in popularity each year.
Delgado likened the holiday to a memorial after a funeral, where family members gather to talk, eat and share stories about their loved ones in a friendly, open environment.
“In doing so, we have the opportunity to talk to other people about death, to have permission to do so, and in that permission, people get a different perspective on life and death,” Delgado said. “They have the opportunity to share with other people in their family something about their own family history and cultural traditions that they might not have known before.”
Due to the emerging popularity of sugar skull and skeleton iconography common in Mexican culture, Delgado said, a larger cross-cultural awareness of Día de los Muertos is being established.
“We have a lot of people from different cultures and we have a lot of people of Mexican background who don’t know about the tradition,” Delgado said. “So, we are able to use people’s familiarity with the holiday as a springboard to provide them the context about the holiday that makes it even more special.”
Festivities from the event included art vendors, face painters, food trucks and a performance by Central High School’s folklorico group Danzantes de Tlaloc opened the event. At
5 p.m., participants were led in a candlelit procession down Downtown Fresno’s Cultural Arts District from the north end of the Fulton Mall back to Arte Américas, where performances from the Teocalli Cultural Academy’s Aztec Dancers and the Latin rockabilly group The Moonlight Trio were heard.
In concurrence with Día de los Muertos, Arte Américas also opened its own exhibition “Canto De Los Muertos” with installation pieces from over 40 artists throughout California.
The exhibition, showing both 2D and 3D installation pieces, runs through Nov. 16. The art pieces honor loved ones lost through the usage of four large scale ofrendas, or altars, that contain remnants of memories and visual tributes that allow observers to be completely absorbed in the sacred space, as well as other artistic pieces containing modern interpretations drawn from pop culture.
“In a sense, with all the thinking about it and all the activity, you do kind of summon them in a spiritual way, you invite them to come back because you put this for them,” said Martha Powell, an altar presenter.
“In our world, as long as you are talking about them, their spirit continues to live and they continue to live on through us,” Powell said.