Colorado’s largest Dia de los Muertos celebration began on Saturday with an all-day family fiesta in downtown Longmont, and will culminate on Nov.r 2 in the annual celebration of live music and dance at the Noche de Museo: Celebrating Day of the Dead.
Marking its 23rd anniversary, Longmont’s Dia de los Muertos festivities are the longest-standing in the state and attract more than 6,000 visitors to the community each year. The observances have grown city-wide thanks to the Longmont Museum, which fostered partnerships throughout the community to ensure the cultural traditions and the authenticity of Dia de los Muertos were respected.
Throughout parts of Mexico, Guatemala and the United States, Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — is an opportunity to honor deceased loved ones and to celebrate ancestors with food, music and a shared desire to keep memories alive.
Saturday’s celebration was an outdoor festival that included dancing and musical performances from local groups, arts and crafts, face painting and a variety of food trucks. Children had the opportunity to decorate their own sugar skulls, which are traditionally designed to represent the souls of departed loved ones. These skulls are then placed on altars — or ofrendas — built to honor the deceased.
Longmont’s Suarez Market hosted a booth bustling with shoppers buying roasted Pueblo Mosca chiles and pan de muerto, a traditional sweet and savory bread.
“Food is a big part of our celebration. We eat and share stories of our family, and that’s how we keep them close when they are not here with us,” said Jose Murillo, a patron at the event
A free shuttle ran between the downtown fiesta and the Longmont Museum, which opened its Dia de los Muertos exhibition on Saturday. The exhibition in the museum’s Swan Atrium featured ofrendas built both by community members and featured artists, and will run through Nov. 5.
Featured artists Pattie Moreno, Claudia Orona, Diana Mendoza and Erica Moreno created three different altars for the museum installation. An elaborate ofrenda with a rhinestone skull wearing a crown and a long, black and white robe, and surrounded by photos of young people sits toward the front of the museum’s exhibit.
“We designed that one as a remembrance of youth lost to violence. It’s both about paying tribute to victims and calling for peace,” Moreno said.
The artists’ second altar as a tribute to their cousin, who passed away only three weeks earlier. “I think his personality comes through in this one,” Mendoza said. “You can really see who he was.”
The largest altar created by the featured artists is a tribute to ancestors.
“We made this for our friends, mentors and teachers,” Moreno said. “We opened it up to people in the community who wanted to honor someone.”
Lupita Crespo made an ofrenda for the first time. She created it for her colleagues at Timberline K-8 School in Longmont, so that they could honor the memories of their loved ones.
“A few families are participating, and we have learned a lot about those they want to honor,” Crespo said.
Firehouse Art Center open their Catrinas and Calacas Auction on Saturday. It featurued large canvas representations of La Calavera Catrina by local artists. The brightly colored works will remain on display until bidding ends on Oct. 28, during the Catrina Ball at Firehouse. Tickets are available for $15 in advance or $20 at the door, and attendees are invited to dress as their favorite Catrina or Catrin.
Multiple downtown Longmont businesses are participating in commemorating those who have passed on by making their own altars. You can see these ofrendas on a self-guided tour by picking up a map at any downtown business location or by stopping into the Longmont Development Authority at 320 Main Street.
“I wasn’t really exposed to Day of the Dead until I moved to Longmont,” Murillo said. “These celebrations are just a great way to reconnect with my heritage.”
Correction: Suarez Market sells Pueblo Mosca variety of green chile not hatch green chiles.