Dia de Los Muertos at El Centro de la Raza

Both the photos and interviews we selected provide alternating perspectives on the event. Our photo of the Seattle Fandango Project procession captures the active, momentary side of the event, and the second photo, that of some our class altars, captures the static, reflective side of the event, wherein participants look back to those who have passed away and to those who have been foundational in the production of culture. Likewise, the two interviews we selected provide alternating perspectives: in our interview with Federico Rubiolo, an Argentinian, he discussed how even though Dia de Los Muertos is not celebrated in Argentina he feels that it is a great way to celebrate those who have passed away and that it still resonates with him because he connects with Latinx culture; in our interview with Sam Rojas, a seven-year-old kid, she said that it was a fun and family-oriented way to spend time with extended family as well as others who celebrate the event.


The Seattle Fandango Project leading a musical procession down the hallway of altars at El Centro de la Raza for the Dia De Los Muertos celebration on November 2nd, 2017 (photo credit: Gabrielle Carini)

The photo represents social critique because the photographed crowd are attendees of an event advocating for social change– the idea of “Building Bridges not Walls.” The photographed attendees show their support by listening and preparing to follow the leaders of the musical procession.


These were a few of the altars/ofrendas made by the UW GWSS 451 class presented at the Dia de los Muertos celebration at El Centro de la Raza in Beacon Hill, Seattle on November 2nd, 2017 (photo credit: Gabrielle Carini)

This photo represents ceremonial healing. The ceremonial aspects of spirituality, religiosity, spectacle, and pageantry are expressed on the altars/ofrendas through the display of the traditional elements, vibrant colors, and unique theme of each altar. The combination of these traditional aspects with the creative aesthetics highlights belief, healing, and celebration of the dead.


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El Desfile de Lxs Músicxs

Starting from a spontaneous session on the third floor, eight musicians collectively decided on chords and a rhythm and used this to lead a procession through the hallway of altars. There was a great variety of instruments traditional to Venezuelan fandango musical custom, including a charrasca, an animal’s jaw bone, used in a manner similar to that of a wood cricket. They lined up and performed throughout El Centro to their new auditorium where they broke into song and dance, and spectators received pan dulce and took a seat to watch. Many people, kids in particular, joined in in the dancing. The music was uplifting and positive, and the energy of the dancers and musicians alike was palpable. The musical tradition forms a central aspect of Día de los Muertos festivities.

Los altares del Día de los Muertos en el Centro de la Raza

A great variety of colourful and dense altars line the walls beneath rows of papel picado, with full meals, bread, fruit, or candy placed out front, flanked by orange paper flowers and candles. In their remembrance of those who have passed away, the dedications made are varied and include the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, Amnesty International, HIV/AIDS prevention, the 2016 Orlando Pulse shooting, as well as issues local to Seattle and directly personal to the people who have built these altars, such as the level of pollution and noise in Beacon Hill, the Washington Coalition to Stop the New Nuclear Arms Race, and Somos Seattle, an LGBTQ Latino organization. The altars concern themselves with the remembrance of the past, who and what has been lost, as well as the continued struggles of the present and the potential for a more equitable and peaceful future.