dAY OF THE DEAD
With the firm aim of reinforcing Hispanic identity and traditions, the Day of the Dead, a tradition declared in 2003 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been celebrated in in Anchorage, Alaska, since 2004.
This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, activities that involve large crowds, dance performances or live music, or sharing traditional food such as Bread of the Dead and hot chocolate, will not be possible. However, in order to still observe a tradition with such deep roots among the Latino population, activities that include a procession, art displays, and more will be carried out.
Indra Arriaga Delgado, originally from Veracruz, Mexico and based in Anchorage, is one of the funding members of the community-level festivities “It all started with a small altar, thanks to this more people from the community joined in and thus we became connected and started creating community “, said the artist, who has lived in Alaska for the past 17 years.
The 16th Anniversary of Day of the Dead in Anchorage will be held on November 1st and 2nd. On November 1st, archeologist Lorena Medina Martinez will give a lecture about the historical and cultural aspect of the celebration at 2pm via Zoom. The altars display will be open from 4 to 6 pm for people that are in the pandemic high-risk category.
On November 2nd, a procession will start at the lawn of the Anchorage Museum at 5 pm walking towards Townsquare next to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (PAC). Currently, artist Macuca Cuca guides several community members working on more than 10 skulls made of traditional Mexican cartonería (the art of making 3 dimensional sculptures with papier-mâché) and will be part of the procession on November 2nd. All with iconographic origin to the distinctive elements of the tradition of the Day of the Dead as we know it.
The lobby at the PAC will be set up with the altars, which will include typical things like tissue paper with cut out shapes, Day of the Dead bread, traditional food and lots of color. All activities will be carried out with the relevant health measures and the departure and entry of people into enclosed spaces will be regulated. The celebration on the 2nd will end at 8 pm.
The expressive richness of one of the most entrenched traditions is also an opportunity to continue to strengthen the unity of the Latino community. “This year the pandemic complicated things, but it is these challenges that also make us grow and adapt, something immigrants are expert at, it brings us closer together within our own community, because people from other countries and ethnicities unite,” said Indra.
Currently, 8 percent of the population in Alaska identify as Latino, and about 27,000 live in Anchorage. Therefore, commemorating Day of the Dead reinforces the Latino community’s identity and collective memory.
Within the framework of this festival, we invite the community to install their altars at home, take photographs to be included in the altar exhibition, and share them with the general population.