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Snite celebrates Day of the Dead

Lindsay Sena | Friday, November 2, 2007

With displays, a dance performance and a Frida look-alike contest, the Snite Museum celebrated El Dia de los Muertos, the “Day of the Dead,” on Thursday evening.

The Mexican celebration, which takes place the day after Halloween, honors the dead and celebrates the lives of one’s ancestors.

Notre Dame students and faculty, as well as many area residents and high school students, attended the event. The program began with a description of the significance of the Day of the Dead, given by artist Ramiro Rodriguez.

His installation, “Cuantos y Memoria,” captures his feelings about his experience as a first-generation Mexican-American, as well as what it means to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Speaking before the attendees, he emphasized that the Day of the Dead is not a ghoulish celebration, contrary to some stereotypes, but “a celebration of life, of the sweetness of life and the continuing of life.”

His two-part installation, which is on display until Dec. 26, includes an electronically enhanced “ofrenda,” or altar, with photos of his diseased ancestors, some of their favorite foods and the traditional sugar skulls. The skulls, he said, represent a duality – “the sweetness of life and the necessity of death.”

The second part of the installation includes a wooden skeleton sitting in a coffin, which contains homemade flowers and several books.

“Life is like a story in a book. … When people die, their story is forgotten,” Rodriguez said.

The books represent the stories of one’s ancestors that “were never heard or, in essence, were buried,” he said.

The program also included the performance of a traditional Mexican dance by Notre Dame’s Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro. The women wore all-white dresses and balanced candles on their heads. The Notre Dame Mariachi Band also performed: The women wore colorful Mexican dresses, the men, black suits and sombreros.

The evening ended with a “Frida look-alike” contest. Five participants dressed to resemble and honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Prizes were awarded for the “Best Frida-look-a-like” and the “Spirit of Frida,” costumes.

The Snite Museum co-sponsored the event with the Institute for Latino Studies, Campus Ministry, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and Multicultural Student Programs and Services.