MISSION--Late October is a time typically associated with sweet treats and clever disguises. The Dia De Los Muertos Folklife Festival at the Mission Historical Museum was no exception.
On Saturday evening vendors selling art, food and artisan goods set up outside the museum as several attendees with skulls painted on their faces (catrinas) lurked amongst the crowds.
Inside the museum more than a dozen altars were displayed by community members. Shelves with photos of the deceased were littered with their favorite items, foods and candles so their spirits can find their way to the gifts.
Participants commemorated family, pets and even fallen celebrities.
Rosie Olivarez and Joann Ortiz, two Mission residents, first started participating in the event with their daughter's’ Girl Scout troop 10 years ago. Even now that the troop has grown up, the two mothers still remain annual participants.
“I wanted to share this with the girls because it’s a tradition. It’s the same thing my parents taught me, and I want to pass that on to them,” Ortiz said. “My alter is honoring my grandparents. They liked, bingo, coffee and pecans.. They were really great grandparents, and I think they appreciate that we honor them this way.”
Josue R. Perez, the deceased father of Yvonne Perez-Gagnon, was a volunteer fireman at the Mission Fire Department for more than 30 years. He also had an altar at the museum to compliments the street named after him in Mission after he passed three years ago.
“This altar isn’t just about my father, it’s about my whole family’s story,” Perez-Ganon said. “All those items and photos represent memories I have of them… This is such a beautiful tradition but I feel like we’re losing it.”
In an effort to suppress that loss of tradition, Marisol Karam, an art teacher at Mission High School, assigned her advanced students a fallen artist to make a shrine of, which they spent all summer and the beginning of the school year working on.
“Artists are magical because we produce work that is unique, so I wanted to see how the students encompassed each artist’s style and personality through this project,” she said.
There were shrines of Selena Quintanilla, Maria Felix and other hispanic artists that have made their marks in history.
Fernanda Hernandez, senior at Mission High School and the artist behind the pencil-drawn Maria Felix portrait displayed at the event, said she was excited to see her work in a museum for the community to see.
“It’s a great experience to have people see my work and give me input,” she said. “More than anything I just really wanted to capture her beauty through this project.”