OBSERVER Staff Writer
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
The ofrenda, an altar, was a central part of a El Dia de los Muertos celebration held in Brocton Saturday night. Residents were able to bring in mementoes for the altar to honor those who have passed away.
BROCTON - Most remember their loved ones with a funeral or memorial service. In the Mexican tradition of El Dia de los Muertos, it is custom to celebrate loved ones who have passed away with a celebration. Residents in Brocton had a chance to experience El Dia de los Muertos, or "day of the dead" Saturday night.
The Ahira Hall Memorial Library hosted a Dia de los Muertos celebration coordinated by Lucy Andrus. The celebration, along with a series of workshops leading up to the event is how Andrus is spending her sabbatical from SUNY Buffalo.
"Thank you to the library for wanting to participate," Andrus said. "It's a wonderful way to remember our departed loved ones."
Leading up to the celebration, Andrus held a series of workshops at the library. At each workshop participants were able to make either calacas (skeletons), calaveras (skulls) and plaster masks. The calacas and calaveras are meant to be colorful and joyous, not scary. They are to honor those who have passed away in a way as unique as their personalities.
"I chose the (Brocton library) to try to increase culture and diversity. A lot of smaller towns don't get resources the larger towns do," Andrus said.
Over 50 people attended the celebration and were treated to authentic Mexican food and music. Guests were also able to bring artifacts of their departed loved ones to place on the ofrenda. The ofrenda is the center of Day of the Dead celebrations in homes. This altar is decorated with mementoes and pictures of loved ones.
An ofrenda was set up in the library, built by a local volunteer, where local residents could bring in mementoes to be placed on the ofrenda.
Residents also had the opportunity to make a memento during the celebration and place it on the altar. An arch of flowers was also made by residents. The arch is to bring the spirits of those who have passed away to the celebration. The altar will stay up in the library through the end of the week for residents who are interested in looking at the mementoes.
Andrus said that many local residents wanted to learn about the Mexican tradition and were "hungry" to learn.
"If you get people to try something new, they're hungry to learn," she said.
Local residents came out to the celebration as a way to celebrate and learn about personal heritage. Brocton resident Marci Ghent and daughter, Katarina came to the celebration as a way to learn more about their heritage. Ghent is of Mexican heritage but did not grow up with traditional Day of the Dead celebrations. Katarina even made a calacas for in remembrance of her father and grandfather who passed way earlier this year.
"My daughter made a calacas and it's very therapeutic," Ghent said. "(The celebration) was fun with good food."
Brenda Atayde of Brocton brought her children to the celebration to see how it is celebrated. Atayde said her husband is Mexican and her children have been told of traditions surrounding El Dia de los Muertos but they have never seen an actual celebration.
"It was a very nice experience. There were things I learned today I never knew," Atayde said. "(The kids) did flowers in memory of our grandpa who passed away."
Andrus said she was "thrilled" with the amount of people who came to the event.
"Knowing where we come from is important," she said. "Events like these building bridges between people."
Library Director Julie Morrison-Putcher also said it was a great thing for the community and the support was tremendous.
"We had tremendous community response. The amount of people who helped with workshops, participated with workshops and participated in the cumulative event exceeded our expectations," she said.
Andrus hopes to have another event in November for Native American Heritage Month. Details will be announced later by the library. For questions or more information, contact the library at 792-9418.
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