David Garcia and his wife, Kasi, installing the altar with mementos, photos, flowers, and other offerings

Altar Commemorates Day of the Dead

On View through November 4, 2018

For the second year in a row, the DAM is commemorating Day of the Dead with an altar created by local artist David Ocelotl Garcia and his family. Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and Latin America that celebrates and commemorates the lives of those we’ve lost.

The tradition dates back several thousand years to the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua peoples who believed it was disrespectful to mourn the dead. Death was considered a natural phase in a longer continuum of life, beginning with birth, then childhood, and growing up into a contributing member of society. On Day of the Dead, the departed could return to Earth and celebrate with their loved ones. Today, Day of the Dead is an infusion of indigenous and Christian beliefs. The celebration takes place on November 1 and 2.

This altar will honor my ancestors, as well as the museum's staff members' loved ones.

– David Ocelotl Garcia
The Garcia Family and the 2018 DAM Community Day of the Dead altar.
The Garcia Family and the 2018 DAM Community Day of the Dead altar.

Altars, or ofrendas, are the centerpiece of Day of the Dead celebrations. Built in homes and cemeteries, altars provide a vehicle for remembering and celebrating ancestors, family members, and pets who have passed on. They welcome back departed spirits to the realm of the living.

Traditional altars include several tiers and are covered with mementos, flowers, and other offerings. Garcia’s altar includes memorable objects and photos of those who have passed on to the spirit world. He also includes candles, skeletons, skulls, drums, flutes, paper flowers, and flower designs in the altar.

Garcia says, “This Day of the Dead altar is inspired by my own experiences creating altars for a variety of ceremonies and celebrations.” His creative approach to the altar was “simply to make it as balanced and as beautiful as possible!”

The altar will be on display on Level 1 of the Hamilton Building through Sunday, November 4. Visit on Saturday, November 3 and see it free during Free First Saturday or Night at the Museums.

Lindsey Miller Truswell is the department administrator for learning and engagement. Lindsey has been at the DAM since 2013, and her favorite exhibition to date was Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land.

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