California Academy of Sciences Exhibit Documents Day of the Dead Festivities in Rural Mexico Now On Display

SAN FRANCISCO (September 2000) --- In honor of Latino Heritage Month, the Academy presents Rural Traditions: A Day of the Dead, a temporary exhibit on loan from the Mexican Museum. This exhibit documents the Day of the Dead festivities in rural México with color photographs that capture the fanfare of the colorful ceremony as well as the emotional family bond behind the Day of the Dead. Rural Traditions: A Day of the Dead features photographs by Ruth Lechuga, Cristina Taccone, Joe Rodriguez, Antonio Turok and other artists from both the United States and México. The Day of the Dead is a ritual time when the spirits of the dead are expected to visit the living and are honored guests for that night. The origins of the Day of the Dead, or "El Dia de los Muertos," extend back to practices and world views of ancient México that held life and death were integrally related and formed a unified continuum. After the Spanish conquest the indigenous practices were subsumed in the context and ideology of the Roman Catholic holiday of All Souls Day that had its beginnings in the 9th century celebration of Allhollows, a ceremony that was concerned with gathering souls of the dead. Remembrances of the dead by both the indigenous populations and the Catholic conquerors coincided in the fall and therefore the Day of the Dead continues to be celebrated in early November. The Day of the Dead is commemorated by visitations to the graves of departed family and friends. For these visits, offerings of "panes de Muertos" or bread for the dead, flowers, food, drink and candles are brought to adorn the graves of loved ones. In addition fanciful paper mache skulls and toys of a vast variety are made to mock the living. In many homes a ritual altar is constructed to honor the returning souls of the dead. The altars are attractively adorned with flowers, photos, and various mementos and offerings for the dead to partake of in a joyful reunion with the living.

The exhibit ends November 5.