Celebrating life on Day of the Dead

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal

If there's one thing that clearly came across from the Day of the Dead celebration Saturday at the Nevada State Museum, it's that truly the life of a loved one is to be celebrated.

Colorful "ofrendas" were on display as young and old alike took pleasure in seeing how each person was remembered through their joys and love of family while they were alive.

Leticia Servin, who is with the Latino Parent Committee, built an ofrendas for her Uncle Juan. There were tools, music, tequila, poker chips and playing cards " all things he loved in life " in addition to a candle, which represents light, and a glass of clear water and lots of food, for the person to nourish and refresh themself.

"The ofrendas has a little bit of everything the person like and enjoyed in their life," Servin said. "Many of the Hispanic families go to the gravesite (on Dia de los Muertos) to have a party. With mariachis, and make it a joyful day and nobody's crying. It's all a wonderful celebration " very happy moments."

Servin, who was accompanied by many of the members of her youth group, said one family member each year is celebrated.

"Many of them have lived here at least six years and never been to the museum," Servin said. "But they are here today to learn more about their culture."

Traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1, el Dia de los Muertos happened on Nevada Day this year so festivities were scheduled for Nov. 8, as not to conflict. El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated with All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). It comes from Spanish and Mexican heritages.

Also aiding visitors and enhancing their culture knowledge were students from

Western Nevada College's Latino Student Club. Lupe Ramirez, adviser, made an ofrendas for her sister in-law, Rosa Ramirez.

"She loved loteria, or Mexican bingo," Ramirez said. "There are also skulls in each ofrenda, made of sugar, all decorated and have the name of the loved one across the top."

Nohemi Guzman, a student at WNC, made an ofrendas for her father, Armando, who died about two years ago.

"This is the first time I've done this," Guzman said. "I'm very proud of my father, he taught me a lot. The flower displayed in the ofrendas is called a zempasuchil, it somewhat looks like a marigold. They flower in full color in November."

Deborah Stevenson, curator of education at the Nevada State Museum, made an ofrendas for her father, Scotty, which included items depicting his interests of nature, hiking, poetry, music, playing Monopoly, his Scottish heritage and making silver dollar pancakes " completed with a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

Visitors listened to guest speaker Dolores Archuleta-Henderson, who established her art around her heritage after reading about Day of the Dead.

"Someone once said, 'Life is a dance with death as a silent partner,'" Archuleta-Henderson told the crowd. "Death is inevitable. We know it's always going to be there, but we must learn to celebrate it.

"I learned to embrace my heritage and welcome it. It has since become my biggest influence on my art. The Day of the Dead tradition is more than 500 years old. It really is a healthy way of looking at death. It's more than a way of honoring the dead, it's reflection and growing, and how that person gave to their community and their family."

Daisy Ramirez, 10, is a member of Making Education The Answer, a Latino group at Mark Twain Elementary School. She volunteered to perform a Jalisco dance at the museum, wearing a white dress with colorful silk ribbons on it.

Alyce Dickson, a docent at the museum, was busy cutting paper patterns for display in the craft room, along with 6-year-old Chase Knecht.

Across the room, Alejandra Rios, 13, and Samantha Medina, 13, both students at Eagle Valley Middle School, were helping children make paper dolls and paper clothes.

"It's fun," Alejandra said. "This is my first time helping with the celebration."

"We were excited to be invited to participate," said Lupe Ramirez. "It's a way to get the youth involved, the kids can learn more about their heritage and we can all promote higher learning to the youth."

Contact Rhonda Costa at rcosta@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.


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