Silverthorne hosts Dia de los Muertos activities
First Friday tops off community celebration
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, officially ended Tuesday, Nov. 2, yet Silverthorne is still in the midst of celebrating. The town hosted a workshop to make personal pinatas Saturday, Oct. 30, followed that up with a lesson on papel picado — cut tissue paper — on Tuesday and activities culminate at November’s First Friday event Friday, Nov. 5.
It is Silverthorne’s second annual celebration of the holiday. The first, held in 2020, was virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Local community members built an ofrenda on video and talked about the significance and history behind the altar used to honor the dead, family traditions and more. It was recorded and broadcast prior to an interactive livestream of the movie “Coco.”
Silverthorne Arts and Culture Manager Sydney Schwab said she is excited to celebrate the holiday in person this year.
“We’ve been wanting to do a Dia de los Muertos-themed event for a long time now, but we really wanted to take our time on it and make sure it was authentic and representative of the cultures and traditions,” Schwab said.
To honor the authenticity, the town put out a call for Latino artists earlier this year to help plan and set up the event. Denver-based group Tonos Latinos responded with their plans for an exhibit, activities and wanting to do the workshops beyond First Friday, as well.
“They have a big network of artists, so we’re really excited to have this partnership with them because they’re able to offer so much for the community,” Schwab said.
What: Dia de los Muertos
When: 4-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5
Where: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway
Cost: Free. Visit Silverthorne.org for more information.
The Tonos Latinos network was founded in 2016 to showcase Latino art, increase representation and promote Latino culture. More than 10 artists from the Front Range created about 20 pieces of artwork — including a life-size Catrina — to display at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center.
Tonos Latinos has celebrated the holiday for the past few years. Founder Manuel Cordero is no stranger to leading pinata workshops, but this is the first time the group has done one on papel picado and focused on more than just a Dia de los Muertos exhibit. For artist, member and Cordero’s daughter Tania Valenzuela, coming to Silverthorne is a way to promote the language and culture even further.
“We know that outside the Denver metro area, the pockets of Latino culture are smaller,” Valenzuela said. “It can be very beautiful when one’s culture is appreciated in this way. Having a call from a more rural place wanting to highlight this work, this celebration, this culture, is a really exciting moment for us.”
Valenzuela doesn’t see herself as an artist, she calls herself an activist at heart and someone who tries to bridge social justice movements with art, participating in various projects that marry the two. She sees Tonos Latinos as a way to create a more welcoming culture for diversity.
Outside of the art world, Valenzuela is a contractor who does justice, equity, diversity and inclusion work as well as serving her community as a cultural and health navigator.
So what put her on the path to be community driven?
“My experience as an undocumented immigrant here in Colorado,” Valenzuela said. “When you have such a hard time navigating such simple things of life, it builds a fire in you to try to make it more equitable and accessible for communities.”
Locally, Valenzuela participated in Tuesday’s papel picado workshop to make paper cempazuchitl marigold flowers, contribute to the main pinata that will be smashed Friday and other decorations. She also has two pieces in the exhibit that are hand-carved versions of papel picado on wood.
“The papel tissue paper is a big part of Dia de los Muertos decorations, so we just thought that this is something folks would do if they were in an area of Mexico that celebrates Dia de los Muertos,” Valenzuela said about wanting to do the workshop and making the First Friday event as interactive as possible.
Those who missed out on crafting their own papel picado are in luck, as an activity table will host both that and skull face painting from 4-7 p.m. during the event. Churros will also be passed out, and Mercado La Perla will be selling tacos.
From 4-5:30 p.m., listen to local salsa band Remezcla. Residents might recognize the group from February’s First Friday, Noche de Candela, where the band played inside the Silverthorne Pavilion as the music projected toward the outdoor dance floor.
The large pinata will be broken at 5 p.m., and Tonos Latinos artist Mariana Anaya Valenzuela will sing “Three Rancheras” at 5:30. Tania Valenzuela said it is the first time the teenager has sung with Tonos Latinos.
It is not the first time Tonos Latinos member Vita Maria has performed; however, nor is it the first time the artist network has collaborated with the traditional dance group Mexico en la Piel. Both begin their performance at 5:40 p.m.
Genres will change as the community procession to the ofrenda begins at 6:30 p.m. with music from the Summit High School Mariachi Band, which participated in Silverthorne’s Celebrations Around the World event in 2019. The community is invited to decorate the ofrenda with items made during the workshops or flowers, candles and pictures that remind them of people who have passed.
Tonos Latinos will be adding their own objects to the altar in memory of Memo Lopez. The artist passed away last year, and his main role with Tonos Latinos was to record events, take pictures and assist with sound systems. Tania Valenzuela said he was instrumental in promotions and in getting events working properly.
Most of the celebrations happen Friday, but the Dia de los Muertos exhibit remains up through Nov. 12. The performing arts center is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
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