Dia de Los Muertos at Ontario City Museum


Noemi Alcara & Jasmin Avila, Staff writers

On Saturday, October 7th, the Ontario Musuem of History and Art will hosted their annual Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, exhibit reception.

This exhibition reception featured contemporary work from artists through paintings, sculptors mixed media, photography and altars. The exhibit reception  also announced the winners of a city wide art contest.

Dia de Los Muertos is an annual tradition celebrated throughout central and southern of Mexico. This holiday was originally celebrated as a harvest day by the Aztecs and was shaped by the Catholic influence of all saints day, which later became known as Dia de Los Muertos.

Dia de Los Muertos is a 3 day long celebration, from October 31st to November 2nd.

The natives in Mexico usually celebrate this day by visiting the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried, decorating their graves and spending their time there.

Overall, this celebration is a remembrance to the friends and family members that have passed away, a day to remember and honor those who have left us.  

The Ontario Musuem of History and Art the galleries were adorned with vibrant pieces of art. Each with different perspectives on artists’ views on Dia de los Muertos. Such as, Francisco Palomares’ Untitled piece, which depicts a man with skeletal facial features, wearing all black. As well as Lisa Cabrera’s Siempre which illustrates two skeletons, gripping onto a heart with the words “Siempre” engraved onto it.

Theresa Hernandez says, “For me it’s welcoming the spirits of my grandma, grandpa, and my uncle who when I was younger I was really close to them. It’s just a way to show respect and it’s an offering. It’s a belief that it’s a way for the souls to travel back on Dia de Los Muertos for the one day. You put out the things that they like and the things that you remember about them. An ofrenda is supposed to have an archway for the spirits to be able to come in, so that’s why I did the archway with the crosses. The belief is that marigolds help them so that’s why you see a lot of those orange flowers. You’re also supposed

 to have dirt and water somewhere on there to represent life, and that’s where you’re buried.”

She states that this is her way of showing her love and compassion to her loved ones during Dia de Los Muertos.

Artist Isela Ortiz shares the story behind her display which was based off of her grandma and in memory of her grandpa, Salvador Quintero.

“This display is supposed to be my grandma and grandpa, which my grandpa recently passed away. It’s them in Mexico back in 1953, but he was born in Ontario so he was like the ‘everyday heroes’.”

Ortiz says, “It’s just remembering the dead. My grandpa was like a father to me, so it’s just remembering and honoring the people that mean something to you through the things that they loved.”

Artist Tom Fontanes,from Puerto Rican descent, describes how he created his piece, “Day of the Dead.” When asked, “What is the meaning behind the display showcased?” Fontanes responded with, “So that just represents, this is a scene from the Bible in the book of Ezekiel 37, it’s called, ‘The Valley of Dry bones.’ Where all these people have been dead and God calls them and they come back to life. First the bones then the skin and veins come back so that’s what that represents. Roman Catholicism, I was brought up catholic and I think most are and if you’re hispanic it’s required. You know? So just different things, things from the whole idea of the day of the dead and the movies. I have a lot of movie references like the mummy. The old mummy he’s dead and then he comes back to life, that’s almost like resurrection. The Phantom of the Opera, skeletons, angels. So, I have stuff like on this side is Aztec representation and this side Mayan, of course. And if you don’t recognize her but that’s Frida Kahlo. And just the old, not old but traditional scenes of the skeletons dancing or doing something.”

He describes how the day of the dead and how people tend to,”Focus on the death aspects rather than the whole idea of what comes after, for us anyway in the Puerto Rican culture is  another difference between el Dia de Todo los Santos, which is the Day of All the Saints, and the idea  that they all come back happy and they party.” When asked about what is significant to him about Dia de Los Muertos. He also comments on how,” Death is always a transition, people prepare for death. So to me, there’s always that resurrection, there’s something that’s coming back. And they’re gonna back and meet cause’ I have that hope that I’m going to meet my mother. And my parents have passed away. I know I’m gonna see them again, it’s just a matter of time so that’s the thing, resurrection.”

“[The] meaning behind my display is hope lives on, basically saying that suicide prevention and mental awareness is very important to address,especially in the Latino community because they kinda push it under a rug as a culture and we don’t bring up to awareness,” details artist Jessica Cruz when asked, “what is the meaning behind your display?”

Her piece also displays Frida Kahlo and she also mentions how there are different meanings in her piece such as, “ The teal and purple is the awareness of suicide prevention,” and how, “Even though she has vibrant flowers,you can see that they’re slumped, they’re not alive because even though you are a beautiful flower you are still wilting.” Cruz also mentions that,”There’s always different meanings and same with the paper. I was telling another artist, I chose to use tissue paper because it shows you the frailty of life. It’s tissue, it’s frail and if you crunch it up or destroy it, it’s done.”