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Breckenridge Creative Arts honors Dia de los Muertos

Enjoy ofrendas, dancing, music and more in 3-day festival

Breckenridge Creative Arts’ seventh annual Dia de los Muertos celebration returns this weekend. Activities include face painting, making sugar skulls and more.
Joe Kusumoto/Breckenridge Creative Arts

While the name translates to “Day of the Dead,” Dia de los Muertos is considered a joyous holiday filled with the celebration of life rather than mourning. Usually observed Nov. 1-2 in Mexico and elsewhere, the seventh annual Breckenridge Creative Arts celebration returns locally for a three-day festival from Friday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Oct. 24.

The holiday does have artistic elements, yet BreckCreate honors it because of its deeper cultural significance.

“It’s an important holiday for the Hispanic community, and we have a strong Hispanic community in not just Breckenridge but all of Summit County,” BreckCreate Community Outreach Coordinator Elisa Gomez said. “I think, long-term, we would like to be able to expand it past Breckenridge and bring all of Summit County together for this festival.”



Last year was Gomez’s first time organizing the event, and she said it was easier this time around as partners were eager to come back following the smaller version constrained by the pandemic. A focal point for the 2021 iteration is “Calaveras en mi Ciudad,” a mobile art show consisting of papier-mache skulls made by various Latino artists in Colorado. Gomez saw them last year in Denver and reached out to the group that curated them, Colectiva, to bring the pieces to Summit County.

The organization formed last year as a way to take culturally appropriated traditions back, elevate them and foster a community of visual artists, performers, chefs, writers and more. The calaveras, or skulls, were placed throughout Denver for a socially distant Dia de los Muertos.



“The Latino community was one of the hardest hit by COVID, (and) we really wanted to pay homage to the fact that we understand that we have experienced so many deaths in the Latinx community,” said Rachel Garcia, one of the founding members of Colectiva.

The exhibit opens with an artist talk about the pieces at 6 p.m. Friday at the Old Masonic Hall with Garcia and Alexis Newton from Colectiva and BreckCreate artist-in-residence Julio Mendoza. Then at 6:30 p.m., Chilean artist and musician Adolfo Romero will perform at the gallery.

“His performance should be very cool,” Gomez said. “It’s just him, so he plays a number of different instruments, which I think is really interesting.”

The calavera Julio Mendoza made last year is painted to be a mask over a jaguar face. The Denver-based artist painted a second skull to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Breckenridge.
Julio Mendoza/Courtesy photo

For those who can’t attend the talk or any other weekend events, BreckCreate has educational materials and at-home crafts available in English and Spanish online.

Saturday starts off with three workshops for children hosted throughout the day. Beginning at 10 a.m., Old Masonic Hall’s upstairs gallery will host a sugar skull workshop for participants to make the iconic, sweet treat and learn its symbolism. Breckenridge Theater’s patio has skeleton masks to make based on Jose Posada’s “La Calavera Catrina” artwork taught by bilingual instructors from Metro State University of Denver. Lastly, the Quandary Antiques Cabin is where people can create a loteria card for the game of chance similar to bingo. All workshops are first come, first served.

If you go

What: Dia de los Muertos

When: Friday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Oct. 24

Where: Breckenridge Creative Arts District campus and various businesses

Cost: Free. Visit BreckCreate.org for more details and to register for “La Leyenda de Chupacabra.”

“I feel like it’s always been a really good mix of education with art to help everybody learn about it, especially kids with the workshops,” Gomez said.

Returning this year is a performance by the Aztec dance group Huitzilopochtli. Starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday on the Blue River Plaza, the dancers will perform a battle dance with two Aztec warriors. At 2:30 p.m. on the Breckenridge Theatre’s patio, the group will have a hands-on dance workshop that prepares families for a candlelight vigil on Saturday and altar dedication on Sunday.

A demonstration on ofrendas — traditional altars where people honor the dead with candles and other decorations — will be held on the patio of Old Masonic Hall at 3 p.m. Saturday. The event is in partnership with MSU Denver, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council and Denver artist Cal Duran.

Ofrendas can also be found at participating locations such as Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, Hearthstone Restaurant, Summit County Library’s south branch, Castaways Cove and Gravity Haus through Tuesday, Nov. 2. Some were made by restaurant staff while others were made by students and members of the group Mountain Dreamers.

Huitzilopochtli returns to Breckenridge on Saturday, Oct. 23, to perform traditional Aztec dances. A workshop will follow the show.
Joe Kusumoto/Breckenridge Creative Arts

The evening ends with “La Leyenda del Chupacabra,” an animated movie screening on 4 p.m. at the patio of the Breckenridge Theater. The free film by Anima Estudios will run in Spanish with English subtitles, and preregistration is required.

Speaking of ofrendas, artist Adrian Marban will be installing one from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday in Old Masonic Hall’s upstairs gallery. Silvia Hernandez, owner of La Catrina Grill in Denver, will lead a pan de muerto workshop on how to make the sweet holiday bread at the same place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that day.

Can’t make it to the workshop? The Mexican Cultural Center market will be selling traditional gifts and ornaments as well as goods like the bread from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the gallery, as well. Old Masonic Hall’s patio will also be home to face painting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Though the events end Sunday, “Calaveras en mi Ciudad” remains on display through Nov. 7. The skulls are about 3 by 4 feet, and two by Mendoza and Karma Leigh are in Breckenridge with six others in Denver. In addition to the skulls, Mendoza painted a Dia de los Muertos mural segmented onto three walls of the Old Masonic Hall

People can learn more about ofrendas, altars decorated during Dia de los Muertos, on Saturday, Oct. 23, and Sunday, Oct. 24, in Breckenridge. Ofrendas will also be at various businesses in town through Nov. 2.
Joe Kusumoto/Breckenridge Creative Arts

It is Mendoza’s first year working as an artist full time. Born in Texas and raised in Mexico, his family moved to Denver when he was 11. Mendoza always enjoyed art but switched majors to criminal justice at the University of Northern Colorado. Yet Mendoza said he wasn’t happy with the career. He left the field after three years, juggled his artistic passion with other jobs, and eventually his murals got more and more popular.

Though not the first time Colectiva has worked outside of Denver — Mendoza painted a mural for the group last year in Mexico — it is the first time they have been in Breckenridge. Garcia and Newton said they’re grateful for the invitation and for BreckCreate to put their trust in a newer exhibit.

“BreckCreate has a great reputation for cultural programming … and we love that they want to showcase our culture and to have it be at the forefront,” Garcia said.

All venues managed by BreckCreate require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 96 hours of the event.

Julio Mendoza, currently an artist-in-residence with Breckenridge Creative Arts, sits next to a portion of a mural he made for Dia de los Muertos. The three-piece work can be found inside Old Masonic Hall.
Julio Mendoza/Courtesy photo

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