NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- “Day of the Dead” (El Día de los Muertos), a festive observance from Mexico that commemorates the return to earth of deceased family and friends each year, will be observed on November 1st with the opening of an impressive exhibit and festive family program at the Museum of Arts and Culture and Linda Kelly Theater, in the new wing of the New Rochelle High School. The free public event is one of final programs for New Rochelle’s 2012 Big Read of Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories. The community-wide project, orchestrated by the New Rochelle Public Library, began on September 16th with a Fiesta Grande for Mexican Independence Day and has since involved thousands of New Rochelle adults and young adults in reading and discussing the superb literary collection.
On Thursday, November 1, the Day of the Dead exhibit reception and program will begin at 5:30 pm, when all ages are invited to view the exhibit and, enjoy light Mexican refreshments. Children in grades Pre-K – grade 5 will also have an opportunity to create traditional crafts to take home. At 6:30 pm Atl-Tlachinolli, a group in colorful regalia and headwear of giant feathers, will perform Aztec ceremonies in the exhibit space, moving into the Linda Kelly Theater for a program of Aztec dance. The acclaimed troupe of Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York, also in full costume, will conclude the program with a dance program specific to Day of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead exhibit of ofrendas, with elaborate figures, marigolds and items of loved ones, is being created by New Rochelle High School students, under the direction of the high school art teachers and Calaveras y Diablitos, a group of artists who have presented similar exhibits at the New Rochelle Public Library since 2007. After the November 1st program, the exhibit will be open to the public on Tuesday and Thursday nights, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, through November 19th.
Mexicans have celebrated the Day of the Dead since the year 1800 B.C. The celebration holds great significance in the life of Mexico’s indigenous communities, as it fuses pre-Hispanic religious rites and Catholic feasts, bringing together two universes, one marked by indigenous belief systems, the other by worldviews introduced by the Europeans in the sixteenth century. The Day of the Dead was proclaimed a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage of Humanity at the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. As readers of the Big Read book, Sun, Stone, and Shadows, have discovered, the ancient traditions of Mexico – such as Day of the Dead --are a vibrant part of embedded in the country’s contemporary history, culture and literature.
The Big Read Day of the Dead Exhibit and Program are made possible by the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; with support from the New Rochelle Public Library, the City School District and the New Rochelle Fund for Excellence.