Tacoma celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Jenni Chadick, Michelle Borreta, Tonia Messinger, and Max Estevco from University of Puget Sound made an altar with their memories of family members. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

For over ten years now, the Tacoma Art Museum has been embracing the long-lasting Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos.

With the increasing Hispanic population the holiday is becoming more and more popular in the Puget Sound region.

Artist Victor Gonzalez helped assemble a sand carpet designed by Oaxacan artist Fulgencio Lazo, following the Dia de los Muertos tradition of his region of Mexico. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

Early in the morning on October 21, families, individuals and college and university groups came to the museum to create traditional altars that recalled their passed love ones.

An altar created by the Enrique family honoring a family member. The photographs show important moments he spent with his family. The skulls and the leaves of the tree make people remember how his personality is still alive. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

It is believed the spirits come on Dia de los Muertos to comfort loved ones mourning their loss. The altars are a way to welcome those spirits.

Altars represent heaven, earth and the purgatory; in other traditions of Mexico, people believe that they can represent hell too.

Mizu Sugimurez created an altar in honor of the people on her family that passed away in the last year. She included rice and sandals and spiritual support for the long journey. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

Photos of the deceased are placed on the altar, along with photographs and figures of saints to encourage the purification of their souls.

Offerings of items that the deceased liked are also placed there to help their souls get the strength necessary to make the long trip to earth.

Skull candies and “La Catrina” are the two most well-known symbols of the celebration. The butterflies and the bright colors placed on the skull make it more attractive and symbolic. It shows that the skull represents not just death but it also reflects a living and happy tone. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

To understand Dia de los Muertos you have to understand the history behind it. The celebration was first hosted by the Aztecs and other ancient tribes.

Miriam Fabiola and Maricela Duran Miramontes are admiring the altar created in honored of the lost souls of women who disappear every year in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The altar showed the representation of the pink crosses that has been placed in Ciudad Juarez. More than 150 women have been found dead in just this year and none of the murders have been solved. (Photo by Liliana Caracoza)

Dia de los Muertos decorations often feature “La Calavera Catrina” or “The Elegant Skull” meant to manifest the respect and grace of death. “La Catrina” is often shown as a happy symbol that represents that the death could surprise us at any time and we have to be graceful and happy on earth, as she is.

Fulgenzio Lazo, an artist from Oaxaca, Mexico, joined with local high school students create a carpet made of sand, a Dia de los Muertos tradition in his home state.

On Sunday November 4th the Tacoma Art Museum hosted a public reception to display the altars.

Liliana Lopez Caracoza is a member the Seattle Globalist Youth Apprenticeship program. She is a student at Tacoma Community College, working to become a journalist. She sees journalism as a way to be aware of issues not just in the United States but in the whole world. She is interested in reporting on Mexico, especially the way the drug cartels affect the lives of everyday citizens.

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