Long Beach’s own epicenter for the Latin American experience will host an all-day celebration of Dia de los Muertos this Sunday.

    The festival will be at the Museum of Latin American Art and it will be free to the public (as it is every third Sunday of each month).

    “(The holiday) actually is an old indigenous tradition,” said Gabriela Martinez, associate vice president of education at MoLAA. “When the Spaniards came to the Americas, they started blending indigenous traditions with Catholic traditions.

    Officially, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated at the beginning of November, but the folklore of the holiday says that the souls of the dead join those of the living beginning on Oct. 28, Martinez said. It was originally observed in August to coincide with the corn harvest and it is considered an Amerindian Mexican tradition. When Spanish explorers first arrived, the holiday was somewhat merged with the Catholic holiday All Saints Day, which is how it switched to the early November dates.

    “The really hardcore traditionalists celebrate it for about a week,” Martinez said. “It entails going to the graveyard and a cleaning up and sprucing up of the grave. You then have a large feast.”

    Martinez said those living might spread marigold petals from the grave to their home in order to lead the dead. At home, that family would cook a meal of the dead’s favorite food and possibly build a special altar symbolizing that person or people.

    “For some people, it is very serious and solemn and for others, it’s a time to rejoice and celebrate,” she said.

    MoLAA’s festival will include a special altar contest, which will include altar’s honoring family members, celebrity icons and special groups. There will be free face painting for children.

    Music performances will begin at noon, and they will include a baile folklorico performance, a mariachi band and an indie punk band. There will be vendors selling T-shirts, crafts, clothing and different kinds of jewelry.

    There will be art workshops running throughout the day. People will be able to make paper flowers and traditional skeleton puppets called calaveras.

    “In Mexico, they make these little sugar skulls,” Martinez said, describing another of the art workshops available. “What they do is, you can exchange them with friends or loved ones and you write their name on the forehead. They’re used for decoration.”

    Besides the celebration, the gallery will be open for art tours.

    “It’s a major holiday in Mexico and we’re a Latin American museum, so it makes sense for us to do something to honor it,” Martinez said.

WHAT: Dia de los

Muertos Festival

WHEN: noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 16

WHERE: MoLAA, 628 Alamitos Ave.

COST: Free

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