Community comes together to celebrate Día de los Muertos


Photos by Saraphina Sefcik

On Sunday, Nov. 1, the Grand Rapids Public Library hosted a Dia de los Muertos celebration that included food, music, crafts and altar displays. El Granjero, a local Grand Rapids restaurant, catered authentic Mexican food including empanadas, chips and salsa and arroz con leche. Participants had the opportunity to enjoy face painting, bilingual story time, a Mariachi band and decorating skulls.

“It is great that the library provides space for celebrations like this in order to reach all members of the community,” said Angelo Morenz, a branch manager of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican celebration that honors those who have passed, and is celebrated on Nov. 2 in Mexico and other parts of South America. It is not a time of mourning, but a time to rejoice. Friends and family create altars to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Each altar includes objects that the person enjoyed, such as the individual’s favorite food, hobby or sport. Pictures and artifacts representing the deceased individual are not uncommon elements either. On this day, families and friends of the deceased will visit the gravesite of their loved one. They will decorate the grave by placing offerings of flowers, candles and food on it.

Raymond Trujillo, a local artist, built an altar to honor Frida Kahlo, a self-portrait artist.

“I chose to honor Frida Kahlo because she represents Oaxaca, Mexico. She painted her own life with a simple style that made it colorful,” said Trujillo.

His altar included a striking display of various foods, plants, paper, beverages and flowers, all of which are traditionally significant. The paper represents wind while the beverages represent water. The cross represents the four seasons as well as the cardinal directions.

Jesse Moreno, Jr., a local resident, made an altar to honor his father. His father was in a local band and, as a result, the majority of the pictures show him playing the drums and enjoying time with his band mates. Beneath pictures depicting his time in the army, his army uniform is displayed. A main part of the altar is a skull signed by the members of the Moreno family.

“I look at the pictures and remember my dad practicing with the band. It was neat to see everything again. I’m glad we had the opportunity to do this,” said Moreno Jr.

“The altars remind me of what we used to do in Mexico,” said Paola Gonzalez, a Grand Rapids resident. “The colors, flowers and feeling of it is touching and inspiring. Now, my son is able to experience what I experienced because of the Grand Rapids Public Library.”