Day of the Dead, also known as ‘All Saint’s Day,’ ‘All Soul’s Day,’ ‘All Hallows’ Day,’ ‘Dia de los Muertos (Mexico),’ and the ‘Vodou Festival of Fete Gede (Haiti),’ began as ‘Patron Saints Day’ in the Catholic religion. The Day of the Dead combines ancient customs with Catholicism for most, and is celebrated in the Central America and Caribbean countries of Mexico, Colombia, Belize, Panama, Puerto Rico and Haiti, and to a much lesser extent, in Trinidad and Tobago.
All Soul’s Day is dedicated to those who have died but have not yet reached heaven. This is observed primarily in the Catholic Church, and for many includes visits to the departed.
Every year, on November 2nd, the Day of the Dead, Downtown Fort Lauderdale comes alive with a parade of mariachi musicians and various shapes and sizes of skeletons on parade along Riverwalk. CNW caught up with some of the paraders, and asked them the question: What does ‘Day of the Dead’ mean to you?
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|Sonia Niera-Matthews, Born in Colombia, Freelance Artist/Lead Puppet Designer
“I have worked on creating dozens of puppets for the festival. Creating our giant puppets is like giving birth. The best moment after creating it is when the puppet comes alive in a parade and I see it interacting with the public – making real connections. It gives me such a pleasure to watch the transformation of a person’s personality when they see our creations, even if for a second – Puppetry helps every adult to reconnect with their child within. I also love the historical part of the blending of the Aztec and Christian and so many other cultures fold together their creativity. We are part of the never-ending cultural evolution while we help keep the legacy of the ancients alive.”
|Eddie Garza, Born in Homestead, Florida, CEO of Mexican American Council/Community Liaison
“As the son of Mexican-American farm workers who now runs a Florida non-profit organization to create educational, logistical and cultural resources for farm workers today, I’m entranced by Dia de los Muertos as a wondrous creative exchange of art, culture and love for all. Now completing our 2nd year participating and led by its Creative Founder Jim Hammond, I am more convinced than ever that no other event in our region creates a beautiful tapestry of cultures like Florida Day of the Dead, The event always leaves everyone attending saying ‘I can’t wait until next year!’ Me too!”
|Tara Chadwck, Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, Fort Lauderdale Exhibitions Curator/Ofrendas Curator
“As an indigenous woman of Maya, English and African descent with our family from Belize, my participation in Dia de los Muertos is just one part of a calendar of holidays my family observes. This holiday is particularly fun as it requires lots of hands on creativity as part of the preparation. Here in Florida, Day of the Dead is a time of year when I get to share my roots who I am with a general public that is often unaware of the history and legacy of indigenous peoples, especially here on our own continent. Every year, as I listen to what people are saying, observe what they are doing, and research historical documentation in anticipation of our big day, I learn and share a little more of what makes our US society who we are today: A world where many fit.”
|Chana Grafals, Born in Puerto Rico
Middle School Teacher/Decor & Logistics Curator
“I was attracted to the holiday personally after discovering it could reconnect me to my Grandmother Irma after she passed through celebration rather than sadness. Over the last 8 years volunteering with this event in Fort Lauderdale, I’ve loved how it connects me to the creative pulse of my community. I also enjoy bringing our cross-cultural discoveries back to the classroom to my students.”
|Jim Hammond, Born in New York, Founder/Executive Producer
“Death has always been an integral part of my creative life whether working as a Puppet Master for Broadway’s ’The Lion King’ where Mufasa died every performance, reinterpreting scary fairy tales for museums and theatres, or creating giant street puppet shows to pay homage to my dogs who died. I grew up Catholic experiencing the tradition of All-Souls-Day each November 2nd where our community would clean graveyards in my small home town and with ofrendas as memorials to the dead. This history merged into my work developing the Florida Day of the Dead Celebration over the last 8 years into a family focused event where everyone can attend to celebrate life rather than mourn death. I’m honored the Florida community has embraced this vision to unite a broad variety of cultures into one celebration.”