Community Art

dia1

Studio 206

Julio Gonzalez

Día de Los Casi Muertos

October 4

Showcasing work by Julio Gonzalez, curated by Rafael Osuba.

History

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. It is associated with October 31, November 1 and November 2 to coincide with the Christian tradition of All Saints’ EveAll Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico developed from ancient traditions among its pre-Columbian cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. 

By the late 20th century in most regions of Mexico, practices had developed to honor dead children and infants on November 1, and to honor deceased adults on November 2. November 1 is generally referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”); November 2 is referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead”).

What is of value to you? 

The profiled individuals were asked to include three items that represented them or were of value to them.

What would you have included? 

Artist statement

How do you celebrate the life of a loved one that has passed?

As a Latino, I have always known Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead as the way to commemorate the life of those who have departed. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition resulting from a mix of indigenous practices and Spanish Catholicism. It is celebrated October 31 through November 2. It is about acknowledging death, grieving, memorializing loved ones, and celebrating them for who they were when they were alive.

Although I have seen pieces of this tradition make their way into events like Halloween – with face paint, costumes, and animated movies – I have not seen the core element of coming to terms with death make the same cultural leap. This observation inspired me to create the Dia de Los Casi Muertos project.

Dia de Los Casi Muertos or Day of the Almost Dead is an ongoing multimedia project that explores the cultural differences between Mexican and American experiences with death and aging. The aim of the project is for contemporary American society to examine their values by confronting the taboo of death – ultimately pushing us to  appreciate the gift of life. 

La Ofrenda (The Altar) 

La Ofrenda is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual, traditionally Mexican Día de Los Muertos celebration. It is usually created for an individual person who has died and is intended to welcome him or her to the altar setting. Many believe that spirits come back to visit the living, and the offerings are intended to give them energy for their long journey back. 

Here is an explanation of the different elements of the altar:   

  • The three tiers represent Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld
  • The mirror, washcloth and water are for the spirit to clean themselves to make themselves presentable as they approach the altar 
  • Bread is placed on the altar and carries two strips symbolizing bones that mark it as an offering to the spirit
  •  The favorite food of the deceased is place on the altar. What is your favorite food? 
  • The flame represents light, faith and hope, and also serves to guide souls on their journey
  • Incense is used to clear the space of evil spirits
  • Salt serves as a purifier 
  • Sugar skulls serve as a reminder that death is always present. 
  • Water is offered to quench the thirst of the visiting souls after their journey
  • A portrait of the deceased is placed on the ofrenda 

Día de Muertos’ programming is partially supported by a cultural arts grant by the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.