Summit County community celebrates Día de los Muertos with vibrant colors, dancing and good food
BRECKENRIDGE — To the Mexican community, Día de los Muertos — or “day of the dead” — is not about mourning loved ones. Instead, it’s about celebrating heritage, ancestry and family.
“It’s about bright colors and having music and having memories and bringing those people back from the afterlife for the few days,” said Elisa Gomez, community outreach coordinator with BreckCreate.
Gomez and the rest of the BreckCreate team worked to gather community members for a socially distant celebration of the Mexican holiday, which takes place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. For their sixth annual event, BreckCreate partnered with the Mexican Cultural Center, to host a day of celebration on Saturday, Oct. 24.
Throughout the day, the event featured storytelling and dance performances from members of the community and Grupo Huitzilopochtli, a Denver-based traditional Aztec dancing group.
BreckCreate CEO and President Matt Neufeld said the goal of the event was to make Día de los Muertos accessible for everyone in the community.
“Something that’s important to us is helping others in our community who are not so familiar with (the holiday) find their own personal way into this community and learn more about a really vibrant part of Summit County,” Neufeld said.
In addition to the performances on Saturday, ofrendas, or altars, will be placed around Breckenridge through Sunday, Nov. 1. The ofrendas are one of the most recognizable traditions associated with the holiday.
This year the organizers got community groups to create the ofrendas, which consist of offerings made to familial ancestors. The ofrendas are vibrant and artistic with colorful skeletons, skulls, flags, flowers, candles and food scattered about.
In an effort to educate the community about the importance and symbolism of the ofrendas, BreckCreate included informational guides with each one that can also be found on the organization’s website.
This year, BreckCreate also enlisted six local restaurants to participate in the culinary aspect of the holiday by offering special Día de los Muertos dishes. While many of the dishes are traditional Mexican food, some restaurants took the opportunity to showcase dishes from other parts of their heritage.
“They did special menus that were food that represented either a special recipe to somebody or just a recipe that goes with the traditions of Día de los Muertos in general,” Gomez said.
The goal of the entire event was to give people an opportunity to celebrate Día de los Muertos in a safe, physically distanced way. The performances on Saturday were all livestreamed on Facebook and people were also able to watch in person.
At the Riverwalk Center people were screened for symptoms, required to wear masks and sit at least 6-feet apart from other groups.
BreckCreate also made a self-guided tour for people interested in viewing the ofrendas throughout town. People can find the locations of the ofrendas and a list of participating restaurants at BreckCreate.org.
“One of the most important things that the arts do is help connect us to one another,” Neufeld said. “This, we see as an extension of that work. Using the arts and celebrating our cultural diversity really helps us feel connected at a time that otherwise it’s very easy to feel isolated as individuals.”
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