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Updates

Wed, Oct 13, 2021

Oscar Paz

Oscar Paz - Education Coordinator

Día de los Muertos: A Path to Preservation and Celebration

Maintaining a tradition alive is a lot like a never-ending marathon. Personal circumstances often become an obstacle during the race, however, there are moments that keep us moving forward. As the Education Coordinator at the MAH, one of these moments was the privilege of diving in deeper with two trailblazers in our community. A year ago, we partnered with sisters Maestra Fe Silva y Dr. Nereida Robles, founders of Senderos to create a K-12th lesson plan on Día de los Muertos.

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“Día de los Muertos is a prehispanic Indigenous tradition and celebration. It can be traced back 3,000 years. The MAH has been celebrating Day of the Dead since 1996. Our festivities began with altars displayed in the galleries and a collaborative community altar. Then, in 2015 we welcomed Senderos as a leading community partner.”

Celebrating Día de los Muertos through learning

Despite being apart, working together, digitally, was rewarding and insightful. Maestra Fe and Dr. Nereida’s narratives and perspectives contributed to the meaning behind the lesson plan. The process of working with them offered an impactful learning opportunity for me as an educator to gather and share stories that support the growth and truth of our community. The lesson plan itself offers a learning opportunity for all of us to celebrate and practice that truth within our community.

As Día de los Muertos approaches this year, Helen, Outreach & Inclusion Manager, and I asked ourselves: why is it important for us to continue to learn about Día de los Muertos? In other words, why is it important that we celebrate other cultures and traditions in our community? Let alone, why should they be included in learning curriculums?


At the MAH, we value bringing communities together and welcome them to create a space that celebrates their identities and traditions. By partnering with Senderos, we work with leaders that bond our community by practicing and teaching their traditions. These are collaborations that encourage continued learning of ourselves and one another. These are collaborations that unite us as we learn how to care for one another. We are not alone in these values. Día de los Muertos has been inscribed in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an act of preserving and elevating this tradition worldwide.

To harvest a sense of relevance and cultural awareness, we should rely on encouraging ourselves and others to participate in each other’s history. Only then could we safeguard sacred and essential traditions that would, in the end, show us a positive sign of a healthy and welcoming community.

The microcultures, similar to the microclimates, found in Santa Cruz, are alive today because they stand tall and proud behind annual celebrations and gatherings like Día de los Muertos.

We invite you to participate by celebrating yourself, your neighbors, and your loved ones passed and present at this year’s Día de los Muertos with Senderos. As we gather safely this year, we hope to demonstrate why it is important to learn about Día de los Muertos, because together we can grow into a community that celebrates and honors each other’s presence, history, and future.

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“It is important to continue finding ways to celebrate and connect because many of us are immigrants who are without family or community. I am not in my homeland and it is important to be with family. Día de los Muertos bonds me with my family and loved ones.”

Nereida Robles Vasquez

Upcoming Events

Live now

Educational Lesson Plan: Día de los Muertos

Designed for teachers and educators for grades K-12 get access to the free Día de los Muertos lesson plan by filling out the form here. Learn about Día de los Muertos through engaging activities, craft tutorials, and discussion questions. This lesson is available in English y Español.

Map: Community Altars in Santa Cruz

Learn how our community celebrates Día de los Muertos and visit altars created throughout the county. We will be sharing a map noting all the locations, dates, and events happening throughout Santa Cruz County.

Chalk Circles

Beginning October 28

Browse Chalk Art Circles at the MAH

Take a walk through the Secret Garden and MAH entrance for chalk drawings by local Latinx artists. The art will be debuting on Thursday, October 28st, 2020 and will be up through the community ofrenda viewing on Sunday, October 31st at the MAH.

Meet the Artists from past chalk circle events (some are returning!)

Community Altar

October 28-31

Community Ofrenda at the MAH

Take a moment to pause with a community altar (ofrenda). The ofrenda welcomes your stories of loved ones who have passed. Altars are built to honor the dead, welcome them to the living world, and celebrate with the offerings placed on the altar. Stop by the MAH to view the ofrenda and hold space for reflection between October 28-31.

If you wish to contribute to the ofrenda, contact Helen Aldana at helen@santacruzmah.org or visit the MAH during open hours.

Honrando Mis Ancestros

October 28

Video Storytelling: Honrando Mis Ancestros y Comunidad

Learn about Dia de los Muertos from our community partners and leaders of Senderos. Hear the story of Dia de los Muertos in our community and the importance of honoring this beautiful celebration, together.

Link coming October 28

Evergreen Altars

October 30, 12-4pm

Día de los Muertos Celebration at Evergreen Cemetery

Enjoy live performances by Senderos’ Centeotl Danza y Baile, Ensamble Musical de Senderos, and Evelyn Salguero. Stroll through the cemetery in a self-guided presentation of community altars. Follow the signs through the grounds to view ofrendas (altars) honoring those buried at Evergreen Cemetery created by local community organizations and members.

More event details

Join Ongoing Opportunities: Recordando Recuerdos

Recordando Recuerdos

Recordando Recuerdos translates to remembering memories and will be a community-sourced piece honoring life, death, and loss. This community piece began in 2020 as the pandemic crisis experienced in our community became significantly more visible. It was an invitation and reminder of the power of collective mourning and care.

Recordando Recuerdos continues to grow and we invite you to share your story on a collaborative artwork made of vibrant colors with names of loved ones, objects, and moments lost that you wish to honor and remember.

Fill out the form and honor what you have lost here: Español | English

Recordando Recuerdos will be displayed at the Dia de los Muertos at Evergreen Cemetery on October 30 and later hung above the community ofrenda in the MAH atrium October 28-31, 2021.


Contact Helen Aldana (they/them/theirs) at helen@santacruzmah.org or leave a voice message at 831.429.1964 ext. 7032 for a call back.