Día de los Muertos celebration keeps Mexican culture alive in Pilsen

By Camilla Forte, Photojournalist

For the past five years, Evelyn Duran Gonzalez has set up an ofrenda to honor her parents, in-laws and other departed loved ones as part of the National Museum of Mexican Art’s Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Xicágo celebration.

“It’s very therapeutic. It also shows my children and enriches them with our culture. It inculcates to them how important family is,” Gonzalez said. “We’re not celebrating the death itself, we’re celebrating the fact that we were lucky enough to spend even one day with our loved ones”

Gonzalez joined Individuals from across Chicago gathered at Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood St., Sunday as part of the museum’s educational series around the holiday. The event featured live music, face painting and ofrendas, or offerings—altars created by family members to honor their dead loved ones.

Mario Hernandez, gallery education coordinator, said the Xicágo event was built as a way to preserve tradition through the community.

“We had a platform to build on … to really try to capture the essence of the celebration on this side of the border,” said Hernandez. 

“We’re trying to highlight the way that real people, real community members celebrate the tradition with their families,” he said. “We want people to be able to experience the showcasing of those rituals and that tradition.”

Isaac Bucio attended the event before but set up an ofrenda for the first time this year in honor of his brother.

“A lot of people celebrate [Día de los Muertos], but you don’t learn to appreciate it until you’re actually celebrating for one of your own,” Bucio said.

The event also allows immigrants to find a living community in which they feel comfortable mourning those they have lost.

“To be able to be here and listen to one another’s stories and share this moment is something that we miss from Mexico,” said Sister Rayo Cuayo Castillo of the Encontrando a Dios en la Ciudad Parish, who put together a joint ofrenda with other members of the parish.

“This is an expression of faith,” Castillo said. “This is not spiritism, this is not Halloween. This is your loved ones who come to you in a special way on these days.”