CARBONDALE — The souls of those departed will be celebrated with the arts in colorful display through the streets of Carbondale on First Friday.
The observance of Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, begins at 5:30 p.m. today at Thunder River Theatre Company (TRTC) with actors in costume, puppets from the Out of the Mud Puppet Theatre, and folk music performed by La Gata Negra of Mexico.
“It is such a beautiful holiday that is filled with incredible art and reflection,” said Out of the Mud founder Soozie Lindbloom, of Carbondale. “The more I have been a part of the celebration the more I have grown to love it.”
Lindbloom said the Dia de los Muertos holiday provides a festive way for the valley to connect with specific traditions of the Mexican culture in the U.S.
“Any event that strives to bring multiculturalism to the people is yet another chance for dialogue and understanding,” she said. “But don’t assume that just because someone is originally from Mexico or Central America that they celebrate this holiday. That is part of the conversation, too.”
Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and America, as well as internationally in many cultures, as a tribute to loved ones who have died. As part of the celebration, the community is invited to dress for the Day of the Dead and join an illuminated procession from TRTC at 6:30 p.m. up Main Street in downtown Carbondale to the Round Room in Third Street Center.
“For this valley, this is an important celebration,” said Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH), a partner in the event. “Carbondale is 39 percent Latino, and this is an event that celebrates that culture, yet attracts all cultures to participate.”
This is the second year TRTC and CCAH have joined together to celebrate the Day of the Dead holiday. Kimberly described the event as a creative collaboration of culture that melds Latin music and food with the visual and performance arts within the community.
“It is inspiring, beautiful and joyous. Taking time to honor those who have left the earth is a good experience, and in this case it involves music from Mexico, poetry and performance,” she said. “The procession is one of the biggest in the valley, and anyone can be part of it. It starts at the Thunder River Theater at 6:30 p.m. and ends at the Third Street Center where incredible altars will be on display. This is a good way for cultures to celebrate and interact.”
The altars ( honor the dead by incorporating skulls, flowers, culinary preferences and possessions of the departed.in Spanish)
“Many of the altars have empty bottles of the deceased’s favorite drinks and food,” Kimberly said. “Some even have cigarettes if that person enjoyed smoking. Folks may bring things to add to a community altar that honors those that are dead.”
Along with the altars, the holiday is being observed through the creative arts with original puppet designs from the Out of the Mud performers. Today’s parade and fiesta features seventh-grade artists from the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork.
“Since this year’s Carbondale celebration falls on the traditional Children’s Day of Dia de los Muertos, I decided to honor that in the performance by bringing a traditional Paraguayan children’s song to life,” Lindbloom said. “I adapted the words a bit to better fit the holiday. As for the puppets, you’ll just have to come and see. The puppets and masks will also be a part of the parade.”
Lindbloom said the Day of the Dead puppets from the Out of the Mud Theatre, which is celebrating its fourth year in January, will premier new designs for the annual holiday.
“I am very inspired by the traditional and contemporary art of Dia de los Muertos,” she said. “My goal was to create a show that captures the spirit of childhood and brings forth that undying hope and beauty of the holiday — that once a year we are able to reconnect with those who have passed; that they are never truly lost to us.”