“Day of the Dead” is observed traditionally across Mexico, Central America and in many Latino communities throughout North America; therefore, kinships come together to honor their deceased family and friends by creating altars or ofrendas.
The Smithsonian Latino Center with the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), presents its fifth annual Latino Virtual Museum (LVM) “Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Festival” in Second Life, a 3-D avatar-based virtual world, Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.
The biggest festival computer-generated l highlight is an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame dating back 3,500 years, which is played using avatars on one of the museum’s virtual islands. Participants can organize their own fantasy ballgames throughout the festival.
This year’s festival will feature altars dedicated to Smithsonian Latina curator Marvette Pérez, boxer Hector Macho Camacho, musician Eddie “La Bala” Pérez, singer Eyde Gorme, World War I veteran Marcelino Serna and scholar of Chicana cultural theory, published Gloria Anzaldua.
Plan activities include altar-building, an open-mic poetry reading, a fiesta de las calaveras (skeleton party), a costume contest, a crystal skull dance party, live music streams and a film festival. This four-day online event is celebrating Hispanic History Month.
“Our collaboration with UTEP lets Latino students and general audiences participate in fun and innovative programming utilizing the latest online technology and social media,” said Melissa Carrillo, Smithsonian Latino Center director of New Media and Technology.
Educators (K through12) will have access to online resources, including Smithsonian Latino Center’s digital collections, a Day of the Dead user’s guide and glossary, lesson plans, resource links and a website featuring an altar-building interactive and video tutorial from last year’s festival.
More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in now central Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual, which seemed to mock death.
An ancient ritual of the Aztec people practiced for 3,000 years. A ceremony the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate, because they thought it was sacrilegious. Even though, the ritual merged with Catholic theology, they still maintained the use of the skulls.
Attempting to make this practice Christian, the Spaniards moved it from August to coincide with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is still observed. At the gravesite of their loved ones, they decorate graves with marigold flowers and candles.
Toys are for dead children and bottles of tequila for adults. The participants sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites eating favorite foods of their deceased loved ones.