Martha Patricia Garcia Aguilar displays her artwork made from naturally dyed fibers.

Experience the Mexican tradition of celebrating life at the Museum of South Texas History’s Dίa de los Muertos / Day of the Dead event on Saturday, November 3, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Traditional food, music, folklorico dance, performances, art, children’s activities, and artisans selling and demonstrating their crafts are just some of the activities planned for the public in an expanded indoor and outdoor event for the regular cost of admission.

New to this year’s celebration are more artisans featuring their artistic crafts that have been passed down for generations.  Martha Patricia Garcia Aguilar will travel from Mexico to demonstrate and sell her art made from dyed, natural fibers.  In the past, the fibers were used to make escobas or brooms.  Today, Aguilar continues the craft that originated in certain parts of Mexico such as Iztacihuatl, Popocatepetl, and Nevado de Toluca.  Once the fibers are gathered, there is a long process in order to select the best strands to create the art.  The fibers must be cleaned, prepared, dyed and cut to specific sizes.  Garcia explains, “The artistic process really begins once the fibers are prepared.  I think of the design that I want to create, and carefully select and cut the dyed fibers.  Everything is natural.  Even the glue used is made from a natural resin.”  Another artisan, Martha Loera, will have her muñecas de ojas de maiz or cornhusk dolls available for purchase.  Each cornhusk is dyed and carefully shaped into colorful dolls that are truly works of art.  Visitors may also learn how to tie intricate and decorative knots for rebozos or shawls from Mexico’s national competition winner, Florencia Huerta.

The highlight of the museum’s Day of the Dead event is the Altar Exhibit created by volunteers from the community.  Family members who wish to celebrate the lives of departed loved ones carefully create elaborate altars, each beautiful and special in its own way.  Traditional ofrendas or offerings are placed on the altars and sometimes represent the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.  Earth is represented by food placed at the altar; air is symbolized by the papel picado or elaborate paper cutouts; fire is present in velas or candles; and water is often left in a bowl.  Museum Programs and Special Events Officer Melissa Tijerina explains, “Dίa de Los Muertos speaks to a time in New World and Old World history when people saw themselves as part of a continuum of life and death.  Their connection with those who had died was simply a part of their ongoing connection with family. The Altar Exhibit symbolizes that connection.”

Along with the Altar Exhibit, visitors have an array of ways to learn while having fun during this family-friendly celebration. A Day of the Dead art exhibit by local artist Beatriz Guzmán Velásquez depicts bright and colorful cemetery paintings.  Lauren Holland’s Art and Spanish 5th grade students from St. John’s Episcopal School in McAllen will display artwork entitled “Las Calaveras” or “The Skulls”. Through this art project the students learned the significance of Day of the Dead. 

Festivities continue while children and adults enjoy having their faces painted to look like authentic calaveras or skulls.  Visitors may also create traditional paper marigold flowers and even decorate sugar skulls. Traditional food and drinks will also be available for purchase throughout the day.

The all-day event is included in the cost for regular museum admission.  FRIENDS of the museum are admitted free as a benefit of FRIENDships.  For information on the event or becoming a FRIEND of the museum, call 956.383.6911 or click here.  The Museum of South Texas History is located at 200 North Closner Boulevard on the Hidalgo County Courthouse square in downtown Edinburg.