Another colorfully vibrant cultural tradition comes to life in the Yakima Valley with Día de los Muertos this month. The Yakima Valley is enriched by a wonderfully diverse mix of cultural traditions and people. From historic Native American heritage and rich Latino presence to Filipino American and other influences, you’ll find opportunities throughout the year to experience flavors, music and traditions that enrich our community through cultural celebrations and events.
The Valley’s Latino community brings us two highly anticipated Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Downtown Yakima and Sunnyside every spring. At the end of this month, you can also find two very special ways to experience the traditions and significance of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead is all About Life
Unlike Halloween, which is a dark and spooky night of frights and mischief, Día de los Muertos celebrates the beauty of life in an explosion of color, love and remembrance. It originated thousands of years ago in Central America and has roots in both indigenous and Catholic traditions. At the center of the celebration is the importance of honoring and remembering the lives of loved ones who have passed, as opposed to mourning. Altars of remembrance, or ofrendas, are important components of the celebration. These three-tier altars represent birth, life and after life and are made to commemorate loved ones and welcome them back to the land of the living for one night between October 31 and November 2.
The altars are filled with offerings that represent the life of the loved one and welcome them back from eternal sleep for one night, as well as traditional components such as fire (candles) and wind (colorful paper decorations). Other familiar symbols of Día de los Muertos are bright marigolds, beautifully made of paper, and calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), brightly attired and decorated. Sugar skulls are a common festive component.
Traditionally, Día de los Muertos is marked by festivities, costumes, music, food and dance. Here in the Valley, we have two beautiful displays where we can experience the celebration of life, remembrance, and learn about the rich traditions.
Don’t miss the Día de los Muertos Community Celebration and Community Altar at Mighty Tieton. Each year, Tieton Arts & Humanities hosts a celebration and creates a large community altar for everyone to add to. They’ve created a wonderful experience and special opportunity to celebrate the beauty of life and remember those who are no longer with us. Visitors can bring photos of loved ones, write messages, help decorate and bring candies or breads to make the altar a community celebration. The display also features exhibits about the sacred traditions, contemporary and traditional altars, sugar skull displays, paper marigolds, papel picado (vibrant, decorated paper banners) and a special sandpainting by Oaxacan artist, Fulgenicio Lazo.
At the Community Celebration on October 27, enjoy vibrant, lively and traditional music and dance performances, face painting, arts and craft activities, sugar skull decorating, community altars, and delicious Mexican foods for purchase. In addition to the altar, exhibits and sandpainting, you’ll find a tzompantli installation (traditional Aztec piece) by artist and poet Raul Sanchez and an unforgettable Dos Fridas installation. The installation takes the iconic “Dos Fridas” painting by artist Frida Kahlo and brings it to life with models, lighting effects and attention to detail.
Día de los Muertos Community Celebration at Mighty Tieton – Sunday, October 27, 12 to 5 pm
Community Altar Exhibition at Mighty Tieton – October 27 to November 17, Fridays from 4 to 7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 3 pm
Visit the Dia de los Muertos Community Altar Exhibit, hosted by the Yakima-Morelia Sister City Association. The traditional dances and foods of Mexico have been incorporated into the Yakima Valley lifestyle, lending colorful, cultural diversity to the area. The main feature of the celebration includes more than 30 individual unique alters created by local businesses, individuals, organizations and schools. This exhibit, marked by colorful displays, is located in Downtown Yakima at 16 North 3rd Street and is free and open for viewing daily from noon until 6 pm from Sunday, October 26, through Sunday, November 2.