JSMA celebrates Día de los Muertos and ‘Don Quixote’

Jill Torres dresses as La Calavera Catrina for the JSMA's annual Día de los Muertos celebration.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art plans four days of activities to mark both the Day of the Dead — Dia de los Muertos — and the 400th anniversary of the publication of “Don Quixote.”

The events take place Saturday, Oct. 29; Sunday, Oct. 30; Tuesday, Nov. 1; and Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. each evening.

This year’s celebration — El Quijote de la Muerte — is dedicated to the quadricentennial of the publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ seminal Spanish novel. The free celebrations are open to the community and feature dancing, poetry, music, traditional Mexican ofrendas, artist talks and art activities.

Each evening, Los Pitayeros, a traditional stringed instruments mariachi group from Jalisco, Mexico, will be joined by four dancers from Identidad y Folclor, based in Guanajuato, Mexico, for a performance. One of Mexico’s award-winning artists, Raymundo González Nieto, will present an exhibition of his papier mâché skeleton figures and lead art-making activities in the museum’s education studio.

In addition to the evening events, the museum has produced English- and Spanish-language guides to artworks on view in the museum’s galleries that relate to the traditions of Day of the Dead.

Constructed by the students of Oak Hills School and MEChA UO, traditional Día de los Muertos ofrendas, also known as Day of the Dead altars, will be on display. The altar is a customary part of the holiday that is meant to honor the deceased.

“Día de los Muertos is a festive and thoughtful holiday in Mexico and some parts of Central and South America,” said Cheryl Hartup, JSMA associate curator of Latin American art. “The unique tradition is celebrated by Latinos and Chicanos in the United States and by an ever-increasing general public.”

Thousands of years ago, in the valley of southern Mexico, Mayas, Zapotecas, Mixtecas and Aztecas honored their dead with elaborate ceremonies, dances and rituals. After Cortez conquered Mexico in the 16th century and with the introduction of Catholicism, the religious celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day coincided with the indigenous Mexican celebrations.

The intersection of these celebrations has given way to the Día de los Muertos that we know today, which includes the tradition of altars with food, art, candles, flowers and photographs of the deceased alongside those of saints.

The event is co-sponsored by Oak Hill School in conjunction with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, MEChA de UO, Adelante Sí, el Instituto de Cultura de Guanajuato, el Instituto Estatal de Migrante Guanajuatense y sus familias, and CBT Nuggets.