Driftless Region’s Día de Muertos Celebration
A Mexican Cultural & Educational Event
Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one of the most important traditions in Mexico. The festivity commemorates deceased loved ones by honoring and remembering them through ofrendas or altars decorated with traditional elements and items that represent those who have passed on to welcome them and guide their souls on their journey back home.
This free outdoor celebration offers modalities to honor loved ones and hands-on workshops to engage attendees in Mexican folk art and culture.
The 2023 Driftless Día de Muertos Celebration will be held Saturday, October 7th from 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM.
Please help us to continue this tradition in the Driftless Community.
Ofrenda or Altar
A community altar or ofrenda will be constructed during the October 7th festival. Attendees are encouraged to bring a photograph, object, or a favorite food of a loved one who has passed away to place on the Ofrenda. Other traditional items include candles, marigolds, paper mache skulls, and natural elements.
This year’s ofrenda will honor women activists and victims of femicide and we will remember and celebrate women we have lost. We invite attendees to honor the beloved women in their lives who have passed away by bringing a photo or other meaningful item to place on the community ofrenda.
Mexican Folk Artists, Andrea Muñiz, Gloria Alatorre, and Gabriela Marván will share the meaning of the ofrenda and guide participants in placing items on the alter.
Marigolds or Cempasúchil are the ceremonial flowers for the Día de Muertos celebration. The fragrance is said to lead souls back to their loved ones. Keewaydin Farms will plant around 5,000 giant marigolds for the 3rd Annual Celebration, along with 2,000 purple accent flowers like celosia and lavender.
Calaveritas de Azúcar or Sugar Skulls
Calaveritas de azúcar or sugar skulls are a traditional way to commemorate a person you wish to honor for Día de Muertos. A sugar skull represents a departed soul and spirits of the dead are welcomed back to their homes. The skulls are made from sugar and egg and placed in molds to form the shape of the calavera. Once the sugar hardens into shape, the skulls can be decorated with frosting. Volunteers will prepare sugar skulls for participants to decorate.
Design Collaboration with Julieta Zavala
Guest artist, Julieta Zavala will collaborate with Gabriela Marván, Yesica Coria, and a group of volunteers to design and create dresses for 3 life-sized paper mache Catrinas which will be presented at the October 7th celebration and then travel on exhibition to the Pump House Regional Arts Center in La Crosse and the Latino Ats Inc in Milwaukee. La Catrina is an icon of Día de Muertos.
Julieta will have art for sale at the festival.
Guest artists, Julian and Adam Correa and Joseph Juarez, will lead participants in a painting tutorial and demonstration, presenting various ways to contribute to the mural, including simple stenciling which is accessible to all abilities. The mural will focus on a Mexican folk art theme in alignment with the ofrenda dedication.
Corn Husk Flowers
Guest Artist, Yesica Coria, will present a workshop on how to make corn husk cempasúchil (marigold) flowers during the October 7th celebration. The flowers will be created from corn grown on Keewaydin Farms and naturally dyed with turmeric by student volunteers. Attendees can place their flowers on the ofrenda to honor a loved one.
Yesica will have art for sale at the festival.
Aztec Dance Performance
Guest artists, Alejandra Jiménez Marván and dancers from Ometochtli, will perform traditional Aztec and Mexican folk dances at the October 7th celebration. Ale will also give a talk about the meaning of the dance.
Bilingual Story Time
The McIntosh Memorial Library will present a Bilingual story time and assist with kids activities.
All ages are welcome to join.
Tortilleria Zepeda Nixtamal Presentation
Local food artisans Julian and Heidi Zepeda, owners of Tortilleria Zepeda, will present a culinary demonstration during the October 7th celebration. They will show attendees the nixtamal process of making tortillas. Nixtamalization is a traditional process in Mexico whereby corn is treated with lime, cooked, and dried and ground to produce the flour used to make tortillas.
Zepeda will have tortillas for sale at the celebration.
Kids Art &
Alejandra Jiménez Marván and her husband Miguel from Semillitas – Spanish in Nature in Milwaukee will lead children’s art activities and perform a puppet show. Semillitas is a program which teaches children Spanish language through nature, games, songs, puppet shows, arts and crafts.
Live Music by The Braided Janes
The Braided Janes is a three piece, Latin Alternative band from Chicago, IL.
Founded by family members Jessica Rodriguez (vocals, keys, guitar), wife Juny Alvarez (drums, percussion), and brother-in-law Andrew Doyle (bass, electric guitar), The Braided Janes have made an undeniable impact in the Latin scene with their statement-making music and shared vision for social change.
Bilingual and multicultural, their music transcends through language and genre barriers to create a unique sound of their own. Their powerful debut album addressed important topics such as gun violence, femicide, and the war on immigrants and POC, and the song “Fuego,” featured on the 2019 project, achieved attention from NPR, which included the track as one of their Best Latin Alternative Songs of 2019.
Dave X will give a fireworks presentation to end the evening of the October 7th celebration.
All Are Welcome
There is no cost for entry and workshops are free at this outdoor event.
Two food vendors accept cash and serve all day. Artists accept cash for art purchases.
No credit transactions. No ATM available. No pets allowed. Camping available.
The Driftless Region’s Día de Muertos Celebration is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Support and collaboration to host this free community event also comes from The Pump House Regional Arts Center, The McIntosh Memorial Library, The Mexican Folk Art Collective, the Driftless Café, the Owl Farm, Semillitas -Spanish in Nature, Youth Initiative High School, Tortilleria Zepeda, Ometochtli Mexican Folk Dance Group, Thorson-Popp Funeral and Cremation Services, Community Hunger Solutions, the Viroqua Food Co-op, Peter Cozad Photography, Wonderstate Coffee, and many artists, donors, and volunteers.
Contact email@example.com for event details.
Día de Muertos FAQs
Q: What is Day of the Dead?
A: Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one of the most important celebrations in Mexico. The festivity commemorates deceased loved ones by honoring and remembering them through altars or ofrendas. Each year, Mexican families gather before Nov. 1 to decorate their ofrendas with photographs, sugar skulls, food, candles, cempasúchil (sem-pah-suu-cheel), and other traditional elements. The Día de Muertos celebration holds great significance in the life of Mexico’s Indigenous communities. The fusion of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Catholic feasts brings together two universes, one marked by Indigenous cosmovisions, and the other by worldviews introduced by the Europeans in the sixteenth century. Even though the celebration has religious origins, today it is a cultural celebration, recognized by UNESCO as a the intangible heritage of humanity.
Q: Why do you host the Driftless celebration in the beginning of October when it is traditionally celebrated in the beginning of November?
A: While we would love to celebrate Día de Muertos during the traditional dates, the Driftless Region’s Día de Muertos Celebration is held in early October because we grow a crop of 7,000 cempasúchiles, or marigolds (the ceremonial flower of the celebration), and other flowers. Due to the high risk of frost in November, we elect to hold the event before the likelihood of the first hard frost.
Q: What is the meaning behind the cempasúchil?
A: Cempasúchil, or marigold, is a flower native to Mexico, its name comes from the Náhuatl “Cempohualxochitl” which means “twenty flowers” or “several flowers”. Since ancient times it is believed that the fragrance from the cempasúchil, which is a musky smell, is said to lead souls from their burial place to their family homes.
Q: Why do you host the event on a rural farm, far from cities?
A: The uniqueness of this event is that it is held outdoors, in the place where the marigolds are grown. We also want to represent the Mexican and Mexican American rural populations. Typically events like this are held in big cities, so the minorities in rural areas are underrepresented.
Q: Can I wear a costume?
A: We respectfully request that guests do not wear a costume, as we want to keep this event closer to the traditional celebrations. There is a representation of Catrinas from the artists, but they are not costumes. Thanks for understanding.
Q:If I am not Mexican, can I participate in the ofrenda building?
A: We would love your participation in the ofrenda process. The loss of someone you love is a universal feeling. We want to share with you how we live and see death in our culture, through this tradition. We believe that understanding traditions from other cultures is a way to create empathy.
Q: Is it ofrenda or altar?
A: The Day of the Dead ofrenda is also called altar. However, the correct word to use is ofrenda. An altar is to ask something. An oferenda is to offer something. We offer meals to our ancestors and remember them through the ofrenda.
Q: How can I find more information about the meaning of the ofrenda?
A: The lead artists will explain more about each element of the ofrenda during scheduled presentations. Check the program for times. There will also be QR codes embedded in the ofrenda, which participants can scan to learn more.
Q: Can I bring a photo of a member of my family who has passed away?
A: Yes, you can. This year, we will honor the loved women of our families, and the women from Mexico who have been victims of femicide.
Q: Is this a free event?
A:Yes, this is a free community event, open to the public. Every year we have applied for grants in order to make this possible. Grants cover a part of this event and we receive some help from sponsors and fundraisers. We always appreciate your donations, which help us to continue hosting this event for free, while covering the expenses.
Q: Can I bring my pet?
A: Since the event is held on a working farm, where there are sheep, goats, and other dogs, we ask you to please leave your dog at home. Thank you for respecting the host’s request.
Q: Can the younger kids be around the ofrenda?
A: The ofrenda is for everyone to watch and participate in. However, we request parents to keep a close eye on their younger children approaching the ofrenda because once the candles and copal (hot resin) are lit, they can be dangerous and cause burns. We wouldn’t want to have an accident, so we appreciate close supervision of your children.