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MAH Reimagines Día de los Muertos Celebrations

Celebrations include outdoor chalk painting exhibits, virtual face painting tutorials, and more

A woman pays her respects at Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz at a previous Día de los Muertos celebration. PHOTO: COURTESY Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

For the past five years, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) has held an ever-growing Día de los Muertos celebration, complete with educational activities, arts and crafts, dancing, and a traditional procession from the museum to Evergreen Cemetery.

This year, however, the event has had to adapt to meet Covid-19 safety precautions.

The MAH and partnering organization Senderos have been working to bring versions of these activities to the community in new, reimagined ways. Starting in early October, they began offering outdoor chalk painting exhibits and virtual face painting tutorials and musical performances.

They join other local organizations such as the Watsonville Film Festival in finding creative ways of keeping celebrations going amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is important to continue finding ways to celebrate and connect because many of us are immigrants who are without family or community,” said one of Sendero’s founders, Nereida Robles Vasquez. “Celebrating Dia de los Muertos here in Santa Cruz, far away from my homeland, I want to share it with the community. It is part of my culture and it is my identity. I want to share it with you.”

Now, in the week surrounding the Nov. 2 holiday, the activities continue.

On Nov. 2, organizers will post a prerecorded video of MAH’s Education Coordinator Oscar Paz at Evergreen Cemetery for a history of Día de los Muertos and traditions surrounding the holiday.

A pop-up community altar, or ofrenda, installation will be set up Nov. 2-7 at the MAH, at. 705 Front St. in Santa Cruz. Guests are invited to stop by the altar to pay their respects. Families are also invited to answer the question: “How do you honor loved ones, present and passed?” Tag the MAH on social media @santacruzmah or with the hashtag #DiaAtTheMAH to share your answers.

A video performance of Senderos’ Centeotl Danza y Baile dance group, filmed at Evergreen Cemetery, will be shared online on Nov. 5. Learn about the dance and its significance by organization leaders.

For more information about MAH’s Recordando Recuerdos project, visit santacruzmah.org.

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