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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Villescas

Dia de Los Muertos

Dia de Los Muertos was never something we celebrated with our kids as they were growing up. My husband is Hispanic and has some other culturally solid traditions but Day of the Dead was not one of them. Luckily having grown up in Denver, Colorado, with a large Hispanic population, the kids were exposed to it at school and through community events. Then came along Disney’s Coco and we started to recognize the Mexican culture in our lives. I know this happens in a lot of families, where cultural traditions get lost or are not as prevalent as they once were. A few events in the past few years changed that for us and so in essence we now celebrate this beautiful holiday.

We moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico about a year and a half ago and had just recently lost our dear furry friends. After re-watching Coco, and visiting various ofrendas in town, the three of us decided to set up an ofrenda at our house. We placed marigolds, candles, pictures of them, old collars, and of course the treats they loved in life. Then I found a recipe for Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread). It's a Mexican Sweet Bread that serves as an altar decoration to honor and celebrate those who’ve died. So after having such a wonderful experience last year, I began thinking of how I might be able to honor this rich tradition of remembering in art.

Some of my favorite qualities of Mexican art are the bold and bright colors. After practicing and practicing my tiny people and skeletons in my sketchbook, I felt ready to pick the colors. I started with things I knew would be in the piece like marigolds and zinnias. Next, I moved onto the Black and White of the painted faces and finally added in the rich colors of the buildings and offrendas. Finally after having sketches of basically what I wanted in the illustration and bright bold colors picked out on my pallet. It was time to start drawing and see where that art magic took me. After a few days of adding in flowers and tiny sugar skulls, I felt I had a lively scene.

Last I added the large face of a girl, and that brought the whole piece together. A beautiful and fun remembrance of a cultural tradition, and I’m proud to have my family now celebrate. This year the offrenda is ready and waiting, I just need to make the sweet bread and light the candles.


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