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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Liliana Garcia, 12, of the Amaneceres de Mexico dance group, performs during Sunday's Dia de los Muertos celebration at Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

  • Annette Navarro, left, and her son Gianni Ocampo dressed as traditional skeletons to honor their ancestors.

Monday, October 30, 2017 1:00 am

Day of Dead celebration

Mexican tradition inspires curiosity

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

By late Sunday afternoon, Natasha Luna was used to the questions – and the photo requests.

Luna, a volunteer at Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Dia de los Muertos celebration, was dressed for the occasion. Her traditional dress was complemented by red flowers in her hair, a black veil and a colorful skeletal design painted on her face.

Her appearance elicited many questions about Day of the Dead traditions, and she was happy to share her culture with the curious, she said. She also didn't mind the photo requests, she said, initially estimating she posed for dozens and dozens but quickly amended it to hundreds.

“I've had a great time,” Luna said as a mariachi singer entertained visitors in the lobby.

The four-hour event gave children and families an opportunity to learn about the richness of the holiday, which is widely observed in Mexico and honors the lives of friends and family members who have died.

It generally draws about 500 to 1,000 people, said Ashley Stoneburner, the museum's director of advancement and events.

In addition to children's activities, the celebration featured music, dancing and altars honoring souls of the departed.

Noemi Muia, who decorated her face for the festivities, described it as a good opportunity for her husband, Moses, to see her culture. He often has questions about this or that, she said, and a community event shows him that her traditions are shared by many – not just her family.

The couple brought their children, 9-month-old Arianna and 2-year-old Adrian, so the youngsters could be exposed to their culture and the Day of the Dead without it being scary, Muia said.

Luna agreed that attendees shouldn't be afraid.

“We're not here to scare,” she said.

The altars – which were designed by various community members, including high school and college students – will be on display through Nov. 12. An exhibit showcasing a private collection inspired by the Day of the Dead, “Los Vivos y Los Muertos,” will be on display until Dec. 3.

asloboda@jg.net