Día de los Muertos in Spanish, the annual remembrance called the Day of the Dead originated in Mexico. Its traditional purpose has been to remember family and loved ones who have died and it is observed between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 to coincide with the Catholic observances of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Soul’s Day.
Milwaukee’s celebration of Día de los Muertos has expanded upon the tradition. Added to the personal Ofrendas (shrines created by individuals or families to honor and remember the dead) and a solemn procession are multicultural rituals, performances, and a vigil for peace. This year’s event was held yesterday, Nov. 1. The festivities took place in Walker’s Square Park and the procession made its way from there in a loop along National Avenue, 5th Street, and Washington Street.
Prior to the procession a ceremony was held by members of the Hispanic and Indian communities of Milwaukee. At the climactic moment when one of the Indian leaders burned tobacco, honoring the departed and blessing the proceedings, a trio of crows swooped suddenly low over the gathering, cawing plaintively. I wonder which is more believable: that it was an omen or a coincidence?
Decorated skulls and faces painted with death’s head masks are the familiar motifs of Día de los Muertos, of course. For more information about the event go to the official website at diadelosmuertosmilwaukee.com.
To see a complete set of photos from the event, including captions, go to my flickr page.