Day of the Dead: From the Heart
This month is the 15th anniversary of the Day of the Dead in Anchorage, a Mexican tradition honoring ancestors and deceased loved ones. The Day of the Dead festival brings the community to life, reinforces Latino identity, and opens spaces in which diverse communities can come together.
The festival opened in front of the Anchorage Museum with Itzel Zagal’s invocation of the four cardinal points and ancestors, thus inviting the dead and thanking the Alaska Native peoples for their generosity to those who now also share these lands. At the procession two new catrinas, Agripina and Frida, were introduced. Agrippina was the quinceañera, she was a collaboration betweeen Macuca Cuca and Indra Arriaga Delgado. Frida honored Frida Kahlo and it was made by Paula Cerda. The catrin and catrina from last year were also present, as were many more people carrying colorful elements, and wearing their Day of the Dead makeup. More than 200 people joined the procession, which travelled to the theater at 411 D, where even more people, altars, and the Mariachi Agave Azul awaited them. It is estimated that there were more than 500 people at the event. The program also included dances by the groups Uatzi and Xochiltquetzal Tiqun.
This Day of the Dead was felt deeply and with great heart. It was done with a lot of love and with the awareness that the Latin community is going through very difficult times. Artists and community members touched on very painful and controversial topics with respect and dignity. There was an altar for the children who have died in the concentration camps at the border, as well as personal altars; the issue of cultural appropriation and conversations on how to empower Latinos to have their voices heard and recognized were also discussed. A new president will be elected next year, and Latinos must vote to change policies that lead us towards darkness.
This year preparations for Day of the Dead began in September. Under the direction of Macuca Cuca, many children gave their time and talent in making flowers and painting skulls, for example, 12-year-old Itandehui Dominguez Gomez learned to make papel picado, paint and work the traditional Mexican art of cartonería (a type of paper mache). Carolina Vidal, Julio Millan, and Stuart Sanchez painted faces at the event—anyhow— there were many people who put their whole heart into this event, and unfortunately there is not enough room to mention them all here.
Event organizers would like to thank all the partners: Out North, Atwood Foundation, Sol de Medianoche, French Oven Bakery, Gabriela Olmos and Lauren Horn, Lorena Medina, Ba-Lescas family, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and Anchorage Downtown Museum. The celebration closed with a grand finale, the audience dancing and with anticipation for next year already building.