Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Día de los Muertos Celebrated in New Orleans

November 13th, 2010

By: Shearon Roberts

Photo: Skeleton Second Line. (Photo courtesy of the Consulate of Mexico, New Orleans)

For many Catholic New Orleanians, Saturday, October 30 marked the celebration of All Saints Day, a time to reflect and celebrate the lives of their relatives or loved ones who have passed away. Those in the Latin American community of the city also celebrated Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The similarities and importance of the day for both communities were highlighted through an event hosted by the Stone Center and the New Orleans Public Library‘€™s Pebbles Center as an ongoing effort to forge links between diverse groups in the city.

‘€œIt exposes people to different cultures and languages and to Latin America,‘€ said Sharon Kohl, the branch manager for the Children‘€™s Resource Center of the New Orleans Public Library. Kohl‘€™s section includes the Pebbles Center, to which the Stone Center contributes children‘€™s book to its Latin American collection. Events like Día de los Muertos, informs the public, particularly parents, Kohl said, to the diverse resources available at the library.

It is also a cultural tool for helping different groups in the city find common ground, said Denise Woltering-Vargas, the Stone Center‘€™s program manager for Educational and Community Programs. Children listened to a reading from The Spirit of Tío Fernando: A Day of the Dead Tale written by author Janice Levy. Local artist Cynthia Ramirez led a skull-making workshop at the Pebbles Center on Napolean Avenue during the event.

The Consulate of Mexico put on a Ballet Folklórico performance and altar viewing display at its Convention Center Blvd location. Then, attendees participated in a ‘€œskeleton second line,‘€ over to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum for a sugar skull workshop and tequila tasting at the Riverwalk Mall. The Museum, as well as the New Orleans Office of Health Policy and AIDS Funding partnered to put on the annual event along with the Consulate of Mexico, New Orleans, the Pebbles Center, and the Stone Center.

A dancer performs at the Ballet Folklórico presentation. (Photo courtesy of the Consulate of Mexico, New Orleans)

Woltering-Vargas said that while it was common for Catholics to participate in All Soul‘€™s Day activities, the event helped educate New Orleans families about the similarities of Día de los Muertos for those in the Latin American community.

‘€œThe trend of celebrating the dead is not a scary thing, but it is a beautiful moment to remember one‘€™s loved ones,‘€ Woltering-Vargas said.