Community Festival Sonoma – Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos – the day of the dead – is a fast growing celebration in California (and Sonoma) connected, as it is, to the increasing expression of Latino culture in the state.

In Mexico, where the tradition began, Dia de los Muertos is a national holiday, with celebrations usually spanning three days, and divided between three distinct activities. Traditionally, October 31 is the day Latino children make altars to invite the spirits of dead children (angelitos) to come visit. Then, on November 1, which corresponds to All Saints Day, the spirits of departed adults visit. Finally, on November 2, which is also All Souls Day, families visit the graves of their departed relatives, leaving food and flowers.

In Sonoma, Dia celebrations have typically been randomly planned by a variety of organizations with little coordination. But this year will be different. The Sonoma Community Center, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, La luz Center and Art Escape, will all participate in a weeklong program of activities that will culminate on Saturday November 2 in a citywide – or more accurately Valley-wide – celebration that will last for the better part of a day.

In the month leading up to November 2, workshops are scheduled to teach altar making, paper flower construction, how to make clay ocarinas, toy coffins and flower crowns like those made famous by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Instruction in making altars, paper flowers and ocarinas will be provided by Ernesto Hernandez-Olmas, a noted artist, musician and teacher who is an expert in pre-Columbian culture, music and dance. He appeared at the Sonoma Community Center for the 2018 Dia, providing insightful interpretations of the deeper meanings and origins of the Dia de los Muertos mythology. A gallery exhibit of his work will be on display in Gallery 212.

The Sonoma Community will erect its usual altar and community members are invited to participate with photos and remembrances. See the full schedule of workshop session in THINGS, page 73.

For the November 2 citywide party, entertainment is being coordinated by Transcendence Theatre Company and Nikko Kimzin, who promises a spirited mix of performers including Ballet Folklorico, a DJ, a youth theater performance, traditional Mexican food vendors, wine and beer and low rider cars with trunks decorated as altars.