Día de los Muertos

MECA Will Honor the Uvalde Victims This Día de los Inocentes

MECA’s 2022 Día de los Muertos Festival includes a special dedication to the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting.

By Stephanie Bartels September 15, 2022 Published in the September 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Ofrendas with photos and personal belongings of community members' loved ones on display

For two days following Halloween’s ghoulish festivities, Latin communities around the world celebrate an ancient spiritual tradition. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time when the gates of heaven are said to open for the living to visit their deceased ancestors and loved ones. On this 3,000-year-old holiday, which originated with indigenous groups in central Mexico, the living pay homage to their guests of honor with ofrendas, offering shrines decorated with photographs, candles, calendulas, and their favorite foods. Each year on November 1 and 2, memories of departed family members are celebrated, and their souls are invited to join the festivities. 

In Houston, MECA, a Latinx arts and community nonprofit, hosts a month full of activities centered on its Día de Los Muertos Festival, culminating in a free, two-day celebration that provides Houstonians with a series of workshops, a place to gather, and more. One of the more unique opportunities is MECA’s ofrendas exhibition, for which community members are invited to build an altar with photographs and personal belongings of their loved ones. The 2022 edition will be organized by community member Luis Gavito, who has curated the presentation for the past five years.

“I absolutely love everything about celebrating Día de Muertos: the colors, the excitement, the music, the food, and the community that comes together,” Gavito says. “The ofrendas—the works of the heart, installed throughout the Historic Dow School building in memory of so many lives lived—are the most memorable for me.” 

This year’s exhibition will feature a special altar dedicated to the 19 children and two teachers who were fatally shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. The victims will be honored with an ofrenda decorated with their photographs, sugar skulls, sweets, and toys.

According to Gavito, the Uvalde tragedy’s outsize impact on the Mexican American community and MECA’s broader focus on community arts education for elementary school-age children galvanized the organization to pay homage. Sadly, it won’t be the first time that the organization has felt compelled to acknowledge such tragedy.

“In previous years during our Día de los Muertos celebrations, we’ve paid homage to the lives lost at Santa Fe High School and Sandy Hook Elementary,” Gavito says. “Traditionally, November 1 is known as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”), the day to honor children and infants who have passed before us. This is MECA’s way of saying, ‘We are with you in your grief.’”

In addition to the ofrendas, this year’s MECA festival, held the weekend before Día de los Muertos, will host children’s art activities, cultural cuisine, and artisan vendors, along with a variety of traditional fine arts and performances by MECA Ballet Folklórico and other artists. 

“Today, the one thing that remains is our commitment to authenticity,” Armando Silva, MECA’s arts program director and Día de los Muertos Festival chair, says of the festival’s 22nd edition. “We take pride in celebrating Día de Muertos traditions in the most authentic and traditional ways possible to honor our loved ones who have passed before us.”

Día de los Muertos Festival is held on Oct 29–30, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. at MECA's Historic Dow School, 1900 Kane St.

 

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