TULSA, Okla. — This month, members of the Hispanic community around the world will recognize one of their most important cultural festivals. El Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — honors those who have died with a celebration of life.
"El Dia de Los Muertos dates back to the Aztecs, I mean about 3,000 years," according to Francisco Treviño, a retired professional musician and committee member for the 2020 Dia de los Muertos Art Festival being organized by Living Arts Tulsa, in partnership with Casa de la Cultura.
Influenced by the Spaniards and religion, Treviño said the observances grew into a cultural mainstay through the centuries. During the two-day time period, it is believed the gates of heaven open, allowing the souls of children and adults to visit their loved ones for 24 hours.
Walking through the alley beside the Living Arts Tulsa gallery in downtown Tulsa, Treviño points with pride at the bold colors and giant murals that celebrate this important holiday. He said the signs of death in the art are a tribute and should not be feared.
"Death is something to celebrate," he said. "I mean this is one of the reasons why we celebrate the lives because we are celebrating the lives of the people that have crossed."
Treviño said Hispanics traditionally put up ofrendas or altars to remember those who passed such as the sweet bread and cocoa he places at the altar made for a beloved uncle. Many families visit the graves of their ancestors and leave food and gifts.
"It will bring you back for least for a moment, when you do the altar, that you bring in that that loved one back to you in remembrance," he said.
In normal years, the LatinX community often stages public parades, concerts and vendors offer up traditional Mexican food. While the 2020 celebration will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic with a mix of in-person and online events in Tulsa, the purpose of sharing their culture remains the same.
"Well, you know, with everything that's going on around our nation of people hating colors like mine or darker, I think this festival is a very important for us to know about each other," Treviño said. "A lot of people may not like coming to events like this because they think it's a Hispanic event or African American event or a Native American event. They're close minded and that's because they don't know us. I think the festivals are good for that. So, they can know each other, know about their culture, know about the past, and know about the present."
Treviño invites everyone to explore the Living Arts festival in person or online Nov. 1. Children's activities are also being offered that families can enjoy at home including Face Painting, Traditional Paper Craft, and Sugar Skulls. They are currently inviting artists to submit applications to participate.
"It's going to be fun. We'll try to keep, follow the CDC guidance and keep you safe," Treviño said. "So, we can keep ourselves safe. So, come and enjoy El Dia de los Muertos Art Festival."
During the celebration, it's believed the gates of heaven open — allowing the souls of children and adults to visit their loved ones for 24-hours. In the Hispanic culture, death is a part of the circle of life and nothing to be feared.
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