Día de los Muertos celebration in Breckenridge offers free activities Oct. 21-23 | SummitDaily.com

Día de los Muertos celebration in Breckenridge offers free activities Oct. 21-23

Summit Daily staff report
news@summitdaily.com

Breckenridge Creative Arts (BCA) invites the community to embrace the folk arts of Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, an ancient tradition with roots predating modern Mexico, from Oct. 21-23 on the Breckenridge Arts District campus in downtown Breckenridge. The weekend includes a slate of free activities in which participants craft traditional sugar skulls, paper flowers, masks and a community altar; take part in face painting and dance workshops; and enjoy performances by the Aztec dance group, Grupo Huitzilopochtli Danza Azteca. The activities are led by bilingual instructors from Journey Through Our Heritage, a program at Metropolitan State University Denver that partners with BCA for the event.

Traditionally, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of people who have passed on from this world into the next, and each folk art has its meaning in that context. The paper flowers or "papel flores" symbolize the fact that "our life is a beautiful flowering event," said Dr. Renee Fajardo, director of the MSU Denver program, in a statement. The masks and face painting offer a way to "transform yourself spiritually and mentally from walking in this world, to a different place in the universe," she said.

Thus the Aztec dancers will don face and body paint, bringing them closer to the spirit realm as they pass on prayers through dance. "Every culture has some kind of masking tradition," Fajardo said, citing her own people — the Pueblo Indians — who are known for their masked Katrina dancers.

"In Colorado we have always been a crossroads of lots of different people," she said. "This was Mexico before it was Colorado. We've had miners and ranchers and railroad workers here. We are a conglomeration, not a melting pot — a beautiful tapestry of all the people who've come here."

Not only does Día de los Muertos celebrate lost loved ones, it also reminds us that death is not something to be feared. "That's why we do the sugar skulls — because death is sweet," Fajardo said. "It is a transition that is part of the natural process of our time here on earth."

Among the pieces to be featured at the Breckenridge celebration is a hand-hewn community altar at Randall Barn, decorated with candles, water and earth to represent the elements, food for the dead, and flowers. Community members are invited to bring their own mementos of lost loved ones to place there.

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Even though the altar is based in Mexican culture, the desire to celebrate a lost loved one's life crosses cultural bounds, making for a meaningful, shared experience. At the same time, it illuminates a tradition dear to some High Country residents, but less well known by others.

"I think a lot of people don't realize how diverse Breckenridge is," said Fajardo, who presents educational exhibits around the state and beyond, supported by the Colorado Folk Arts Council, with her students from MSU Denver. Her students, too, represent a diversity of backgrounds. Many have never been to Breckenridge, so being a part of Día de los Muertos opens their eyes to new places as well.

BCA aims to grow such community connections through its Día de los Muertos celebration, which is now in its third year.

"We want to make the arts accessible to our entire community," said Robb Woulfe, chief executive officer of the nonprofit, in a statement. "Our hope is to open our arms and engage the greater Hispanic/Latino community in what we are doing through this celebration and other relevant programming."

Día de los Muertos offers many different aspects to celebrate, Fajardo said.

"There's a whole ebb and flow of a community going on," she said. "It creates a new life of relationships between all these different people."

Beyond that, there's no denying the richness and beauty of the Day of the Dead folk arts.

"Día de los Muertos is a colorful, layered and artful tradition," Woulfe said. "We are delighted to present this exhibition to our community."

The Día de los Muertos celebration is presented in partnership with The Summit Foundation and sponsored by Epic Promise. Activities are produced in association with MSU Denver's Journey Through our Heritage and Colorado Folk Arts Council.

A detailed schedule of Dìa de los Muertos activities in Breckenridge follows. For more details, please visit http://www.breckcreate.org.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Friday, Oct. 21

Opening Party & Reception: 6 to 8 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, free

The community is invited to the Dìa de los Muertos kick-off party, celebrating the first night of the weekend festivities. The evening will feature a cash bar, family activities, traditional face painting and a reception for visual artist Tony Ortega, whose original pastels from the children’s book Aztec Adventures of Cholo, Vato and Pano will be on view at Old Masonic Hall through Nov. 9.

Saturday, Oct. 22

Dìa de los Muertos Face Painting: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Quandary Antiques Cabin; free; first come, first served

Artists Leah Reddell and Alison Kenyon bring their extreme face painting experience to Breckenridge for a weekend of creative face paintings of skulls, masks, and flowers.

Aztec Dance Workshop: 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, upper studio; free — space limited; first come, first served

Learn the history and significance of the danza to Dìa de los Muertos with Grupo Huitzilopochtli Danza Azteca. The company has been in the Denver area for 40 years and is under the direction of Capitan Raul Chavez, a fifth-generation danzante from Mazatlan, Mexico. This hands-on dance workshop will prepare families for the candle light vigil on Saturday night and the altar dedication on Sunday. Participants will be able to join in one of the grupos sacred dances for these two events, if they wish.

Skeleton + Katrina Masks for Families: 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, lower studio; free; space limited. First come, first served

Inspired by sugar skull face painting, you will learn how to decorate your own unique Day of the Dead mask. But unlike face paint, you won’t have to wash your mask off at the end of the celebration. All materials provided.

Sugar Skull Decorating for Families: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free; space limited. First come, first served

Mexico possesses a rich and complex relationship with death that extends far beyond the Day of the Dead holiday and its iconic sugar skulls. In this workshop you will receive an introduction to the customs of Día de los Muertos and the symbolism of the sugar skull. All materials provided.

Community Altar: 1 to 3 p.m., Randall Barn; free

Day of the Dead altars honor the lives of those who have passed. Creating these altars is one of the most important traditions during Day of the Dead in Mexico — and in Mexican-American and Latino communities worldwide. The modern Mexican holiday is a rich blending of traditions, its origins traced back to beliefs and activities of indigenous peoples of Central and South Mexico, as well as Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day. The community is invited to bring photographs of loved ones and flowers to place on a communal altar that will be on display in the Randall Barn on the Breckenridge Arts District campus. Instructions and history of the altar will be given throughout the day in Spanish and English. Little calavera notes will be adorned with your personalized messages to send greetings to those dearly departed.

Aztec Dance Workshop: 1:30 to 3 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, upper studio; free; space limited. First come, first served

Dancing Puppets with Tony Ortega: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, lower studio; free; space limited. First-come, first-served

Create a festive dancing skeleton that moves and creates spooky shadows. This workshop is open to ages 9 and up. All materials provided.

Paper Flowers/Papel Flores-Making for Families: 1:30 to 3 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free; space limited. First-come, first-served

Come learn the tradition of creating handcrafted paper flowers. In this workshop you will learn the art of Papel Picado and traditional Mexican paper flowers. Both of these Mexican traditions utilize thin paper commonly cut from tissue paper using a guide and either small chisels or scissors. This workshop is open to all ages. All materials provided.

Candle Light Vigil & Community March: 6:30 to 9 p.m., Old Masonic Hall & Ridge Street Arts Square; free

This is a time of remembrance, sacred tradition, love and bringing all our community together. Dr. Rene Fajardo of MSU Denver will speak on the ceremonial importance of Dìa de los Muertos.

Sunday, Oct. 23

Dìa de los Muertos Face Painting: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Quandary Antiques Cabin; free; first come, first served

Community Altar: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Randall Barn; free

Sugar Skull Decorating for Families; 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free; space limited. First come, first served

Skull Bracelets: 12 to 1 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free; space limited. First come, first served

Aztec Dance Parade & Altar Dedication: 1 to 2 p.m., Old Masonic Hall & Randall Barn; free