Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos 2019

Join us November 24 from 2-6pm to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a day especially for families to learn more about the richness of this holiday in Mexican and American culture. Enjoy children's activities, music, dancing, traditional folkloric costumed characters, Mexican food, desserts, and beverages. Suggested donation: $3. All ages are welcome.

Days of the Dead Altar Exhibition: November 23, 2019 - January 26, 2020
This community-centered altar exhibition includes traditional elements of the ancient Latin American holiday, Dia de los Muertos, such as sugar skulls, colorful tissue paper cutouts, and photos or personal items of deceased relatives to honor the souls of the departed.

The holiday has evolved from a blend of Meso-American and Christian cultures, and those traditions come to life with this celebratory exhibition at FWMoA featuring memorials created by artists, families, and community groups from throughout the region.

Dia de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in Mexico and many parts of Latin America, is considered a festive time when family members remember and honor their dead and the continuity of life. At FWMoA, a series of artist and family-made altars fill a gallery, often honoring deceased loved ones or groups of individuals who have died for a cause or as a result of persecution or injustice. Common symbols include colorful skeletal figures, laughing in the face of death, or the glamorous La Catrinabased on a famous etching by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, which depicts a female skeleton dressed in aristocratic styles of Europeans of her time. This figure satirizes those Mexican natives who Posada felt were over imitating European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revolutionary era. 

The Interactive Community Altar! One altar space will be dedicated for members of the community to contribute a small personal item or photo to honor a deceased loved one in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos.

FWMoA will provide a nicely skirted altar with traditional Dia de los Muertos altar items like flowers and sugar skulls, and all are invited to add something from a deceased loved one.

We will also provide a book for you to write the name of your loved one(s) that will be placed on the altar and brought out each year!

These regulations will apply:

  • You may contribute up to two small items to the Community Altar. Items should be no larger than 5''x7'' in any direction.
  • You should mark your item(s) with your name and phone number.
  • You may contribute to the altar November 24 - January 26, 2020 only during public gallery hours (Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12-5pm, Thursday 10am-8pm). General admission will apply throughout public gallery hours, except on noted free times such as Thursday 5-8pm, or during the Family Celebration November 24, 2-6pm. FWMoA offers discounted admission to individuals with an EBT card w/ID and free admission to military/veteran families with valid ID.
  • You must pick up your item(s) on January 27, 2020, before 6pm.
  • While FWMoA provides general exhibition security, we will not be able to guarantee dedicated security for the Community Altar at all times. Community altar contributors are encouraged to consider this when selecting items for the altar. We discourage you from selecting highly valuable items such as expensive jewelry for the Community Altar.
  • Items for the Community Altar should be free of vulgarity, blood and gore, violence, or offensive language/imagery.
  • FWMoA reserves the right to remove items from the Community Altar it may deem inappropriate, but we will keep your item(s) safe until you can pick them up.
  • FWMoA is a smoke-free facility and weapon-free facility.

Questions? Contact Capri Williams at 260-422-6467.

Thank you to our 2019 sponsors!


The Kline Family


Dia de Los Muertos altars 2013-2017 Photo Gallery

click to view

What is El día de los muertos (The Day of the Dead)?

Toward the end of October and the beginning of November, a certain love begins to stir in the hearts of indigenous communities of Mexico. A celebration, a feast, a remembrance filled with joy and care enters homes and communities as El día de los muertos is observed. For indigenous communities of Mexico, the day commemorates a yearly ritual of remembering loved ones who have passed away, and exist as spirits just beyond the earthly realm. For aboriginal communities, there is a kinship obligation to loved ones that remains unbroken even after death.  During the festivities that take place at the end of October and beginning of November (a period that coincides with the completion of the maize cultivation cycle), indigenous families believe that the spirits of their loved ones can return by their side if they facilitate their homecoming by engaging in specific rituals: visiting their place of rest, laying a path of flowers from the cemetery to their homes, lighting candles. In addition, families honor the memory of their departed loved ones by dedicating a space in the home just for them—the space is an altar or a memorial that includes food, crafts, articles of belonging, pictures, and flowers, among other things. These objects reinforce memory because family members remember their loved ones; for example, what foods they ate, what articles they wore, or the favorite drink. Stories are told about them too so as to not forget. These actions also reinforce connection across generations as new family members learn about those who have preceded them. Great care is given to this ritual of remembering because in the process the loved ones are reunited for a period of time. It is important to understand that this sense of kinship responsibility conveys the cultural value of family—cherished, respected, and honored across time and forms of existence. In this way, love is a bond reinstated by memory and ritual.

In 2008, this indigenous festivity was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  

Do only indigenous communities celebrate El día de los muertos?

No. In Mexico, people observe the day across the country. These people vary in racial and religious affiliations. They also can observe it in a variety of ways. For example, Catholics observe the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1st, and All Souls’ Day on November 2 by visiting cemeteries, laying flowers, and attending mass. In addition, Mexican American families in the United States also observe the Holiday.

Do only Mexicans observe El día de los muertos?

No. Many cultures have rituals for observing the memory of loved ones who have passed away. In Latin America and Spain, Catholicism influenced the manner that this remembrance is carried out. But in general people visit cemeteries and bring flowers.

Is El día de los muertos a worship of the dead and in conflict with Christian practice?

It is important to always consider the intent of those who observe El día de los muertos. In general, people are simply trying to establish a loving connection with their loved ones who have passed way. Universally all people experience the loss of a loved one at some point in their life. The manner that people react to the loss is defined by personal need, religious belief, and cultural practice. Some cultures do not talk about their deceased loves ones because it hurts too much. Others talk about their loved ones often in order to remain connected with them, to not forget them, to keep them close to mind and heart.

What are the elements of the memorial or altar? 

The altar is a dedication to a loved one and in general reflects a family expression, so it is “right” as long as it reflects the love and devotion of a loved one remembering their dearly departed. Nonetheless, you may use the following as a guide to build an altar. 

The altar has various levels. At the top there is spiritual or religious image, such as a cross or a picture of a Saint. The next level down includes candles and lights. The next level can include offerings, such as sugar skulls, pan de muerto, and salt. The next level would include the image of the dearly departed. These can be surrounded by candles and marigolds. You may also include objects that belonged to the person who passed away. And the bottom level of the altar you can add marigolds and papel picado. Often, altars are colorful and include images of death and life. These remind us that life and death coexist with each other. As such, the color reminds of the joys of reunion provided by our memory.

Specific elements included in altars:

o  A Cross

o  An image of the dearly departed special Saint, such as their namesake Saint

o  Image(s) of dearly departed

o  Personal Objects of the deceased loved one

o  Candles

o  Flowers, specifically cempasúchil flowers

o  Sugar skulls: candy skulls made of white sugar and often displayed with color decorations

o  Pan de muerto: Sweet bread made specially for the Day of the Dead.

o  A glass of water. The journey of a loved one is a long one, so water satiates their thirst after their long journey.

o  Food. People choose food and drinks that their loved one enjoyed in life. Some traditional foods include tamales and atole, among others.

o  Papel Picado: paper cutouts with images of skulls, skeletons, flowers, crosses, etc.

o  Copal Incense. Peopled used copal as a symbol for purification. 

Thank you to PFW Associate Professor of Spanish Karla Zepeda for her contributions to this information!

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Fort Wayne, IN 46802
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Thursday: 10am-8pm
Sunday: 12-5pm
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