[Courtesy of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center]

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a celebration of life that honors loved ones who have passed, said Zaida Agreda, program coordinator at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center. The multi-day holiday originated in Mexico but is celebrated in several Latin countries including Bolivia, where Agreda is from. The center celebrates the holiday as a way to bring different cultures together, she said.

The multicultural center is hosting their 11th annual Day of the Dead Festival on Saturday, October 31. The event will feature a live mariachi band and will have food, kids activities, and cultural exhibits.

“Even if you didn’t grow up celebrating Day of the Dead, loss and celebration is something that everyone has in common,” said Bradia Holmes, education coordinator at the multicultural center. As the event has grown, it has brought Moab together, she said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a client of the MVMC, if you’re a donor, if you’ve never been and you come to the center just to use the tool shed … it’s a free event, it’s open to the public, so there’s no barriers,” Holmes said. “We just want everyone to enjoy it. [Day of the Dead] is a holiday that’s celebrated in so many places, and bringing that attention to it is great.”

During the holiday, families honor their deceased loved ones with tombs and altars. In the first year of the multicultural center’s Day of the Dead Festival, there were only a few families that set up altars, Agreda’s being one of them. This year, there will be 50 tombs and altars—10 altars, 30 tombs, and 10 pet tombs. In 2019, 800 people came to the celebration, Agreda said.

Families started requesting tombs and altars in September. In years past, altars were set up on the Wednesday before the celebration by the amigos and amigitos, the big brothers and little brothers, Agreda said, who developed a base for the altars. In the days following, the altars were decorated with pictures, candles, flowers, and memorabilia, so they were ready for the celebration on Sunday.

Another tradition associated with the holiday is the creation of sugar skulls—this year, most of the skulls at the multicultural center event will be made by students at the Margaret L. Hopkin Middle School.

The event is family-oriented, Agreda said, with activities for all ages.

“This has been our way for the community to come together,” Agreda said. “People of different cultures and ages come together because we have activities for everybody … In the beginning, it was basically just for Latinos who wanted to create tombs or altars, and now we have requests from everybody. Anybody that wants to have a tomb or altar is welcome to have it.”

The Day of the Dead Festival is on Sunday, Oct. 31 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center. Admission is free, and tamales and tacos will be for sale. More information can be found at www.moabmc.org.

Event info

What: Day of the Dead Celebration

When: Sunday, October 31 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Moab Valley Multicultural Center (156 North 100 W., Moab)