MILWAUKEE — The annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Ofrendas exhibit is back on display at Latino Arts. The holiday is celebrated by many Mexican and Central American families, and honors loved ones who have passed away.
Ofrenda means offering in Spanish. Latino Arts Managing Artistic Director Jacobo Lovo said an ofrenda is "a collection of items that are commemorating a loved one or family though personal artifacts, photographs and traditional elements."
Some of those traditional elements include cempasuchil (marigolds), pan de muerto (a type of sweet bread), candles and favorite foods and drinks of the people being honored.
Whitney Salgado, a local artist, created her ofrenda in honor of family members who have passed away. On it are flowers, food and drinks, photographs of her grandparents, uncle and cousin.
"It's important to keep traditions alive," Salgado said of the holiday. "It's about putting it together with my family, because then it becomes more of a bonding moment. It's like 'oh yeah do you remember this time with them?' or 'I remember their laugh because of this photo.' It brings back those moments when you were with them. And death isn't necessarily taboo in Mexican culture, it's an accepted phase of life."
The exhibit features various local artists, families, community members and school groups from the Milwaukee area. Because of that, Lovo said that those who visit will see a variety of ofrendas that are both traditional and non-traditional.
This year's exhibit includes an ofrenda dedicated to victims of gun violence in our community as well as a COVID-19 ofrenda.
The gallery is both a beautiful representation and an educational experience of the cultural holiday.
"We want people to connect with the celebration way past the surface level. So yes you can paint your face like a sugar skull, that's fun. Having a t-shirt that has the Day of the Dead theme, that's also fun. But that's just the aesthetic of it; it's really not connecting to the face that we're celebrating life. We're commemorating loved ones through this colorful celebration," Lovo said.
And Salgado said it's important to also recognize the difference between Día de los Muertos and Halloween.
"A lot of people tend to get confused with Halloween, and they're very different holidays. Halloween is more of dressing up as ghouls or something scary to scare spirits away, and Día de los Muertos is more about inviting them back into your life," Salgado said.
The ofrendas exhibit is open now through Nov. 12. For more information, click here.