Casa Guanajuato Kennett Square members are hard at work preparing for this year’s celebration of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on November 1st and 2nd. Building on the success of last year’s spectacular exhibition of the Journey to Mictlán (the underworld), illustrated with an intricate and multi-dimensional carpet rendered in colored sawdust, the focus of this year’s festival is the character of the La Catrina, or the Dapper Skeleton or Elegant Skull. “La Catrina has become an important symbol, not only of the Day of the Dead but also of Mexico’s will to laugh at death,” says Kennett Area Community Service case manager and Casa Guanajuato leader Gonzalo Cano.“Originally La Catrina was an elegant and well-dressed woman associated with the rich. Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal at the end of their life.”
The Day of the Dead highlights one of the biggest differences between Mexican and American cultures—their attitudes toward death are completely different, Cano says . “Mexicans keep death—and by extension their deceased loved ones—nearby. They treat death with familiarity, even hospitality, instead of fear. La Catrina embodies that philosophy and more.”
Through this festival, Casa Guanajuato also wants to share some of the Mexican fine arts that have made Día de los Muertos such a delightful celebration for many generations. These arts include literature (e.g., short stories and folk legends), music, dance, food, and cinema.
This year’s celebration will be based around the story of little Lool Beh (Little Flower of the Way, in the Mayan language) visiting the grave of her mother, Aaj Beh (The Guide, in the Mayan language). At her grave, little Lool Beh cries inconsolably. But her mother, turned into La Catrina, appears and takes Lool Beh on a journey through the history of Mexico and its arts to discover the true meaning of the Day of the Dead.
Casa Guanajuato invites the community to learn more about the celebration of Día de los Muertos by accompanying little Lool Beh on a journey filled with art, culture, and tradition.
On Friday, November 1st at 5 p.m., people are invited to meet at Anson B. Nixon Park to participate in a walking tour with Catrinas and Catrines (the male figure of the Catrina) and to hear the traditional Legend of the Llorona (Weeping Woman). The community is also invited to the American Legion from 6:15 to 9 p.m. to visit the colorful and elaborately decorated altars representing the different states of Mexico and to enjoy a celebration with musicians, traditional dances, and art exhibitions. “People can also learn the story of the Monarch butterfly and leave a butterfly with good wishes for their loved one on our community altar,” says Cano.
On Saturday, November 2nd, from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Casa Guanajuato will offer a variety of bilingual workshops in which participants can learn to make papier-mâché Catrinas; cook the famous “Pan de Muertos,” or Day of the Dead bread and traditional sweets; and write “Calaveras Literarias” (Literary Skulls),or poems. There will also be a workshop on Mexican cinema exploring“ Macario,”by director Roberto Gavaldón—one of Mexico’s most iconic films about Día de los Muertos. Please visit Casa Guanajuato Kennett Square’s Facebook page a complete schedule of workshops and pre-registration information.
The Kennett Square Day of the Dead festival will end on a joyful note with a celebration of music, dance, and food at 8p.m. on Saturday, November 2nd. “This is what the celebration represents—the celebration of life,” says Cano.“This is a very Mexican way to tell your deceased loved ones: ‘You aren’t here anymore, you’re in my memories and my heart, but I’m still alive and I’m still building my life.’”