“We remember them, we welcome them, we celebrate with them”: Dia de los Muertos is taking over First Friday on Santa Fe

Dia de los Muertos decorations up in ReCreative's window on Santa Fe Drive, Nov. 1, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Dia de los Muertos decorations up in ReCreative's window on Santa Fe Drive, Nov. 1, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The most important thing you need to know about el Dia de los Muertos, according to Deputy Consul of Mexico Federico Bass Villarreal, is that it’s a celebration.

“It’s a happy occasion in which we celebrate the lives of our friends, relatives who have already left us for a better life,” he said. “We remember them, we welcome them, we celebrate with them. That is why we put up pictures of them, the food they like, the hobbies they like. It’s a time to be happy. It’a a time to remember our relatives and loved ones.”

And that’s what all of Denver is invited to do tomorrow in the Santa Fe Arts District — an ideal location for a Dia de los Muertos celebration given the neighborhood’s Latinx heritage and the fact that the holiday this year coincides with First Friday.

The festivities officially kicked off last night with a screening of “Coco,” of course, at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, but the main event starts at 4 p.m. today. At the heart of it all will be a traditional communal procession open to everyone, starting in the 900 block of Galapago Street at 7 p.m. and ending when it ends at Museo de las Americas.

El Dia de los Muertos is a little different in Mexico, compared to the rest of Latin America, Bass Villarreal said, “because it represents the fusion of two different ways to see the world.”

“On one side we have pre-Hispanic cultures — Aztecs, Mayans, among others. On the other side you have the Christianity practiced in Spain in the early 16th century. … Those two ways to see the afterlife fused, and as a result we have a unique way to see life after death.”

Among the ways the Art District celebration will honor the dead will be projections of photos of Denverites’ loved ones outside Grace Gallery Fine Art and communal altars at Museo de las Americas.

There will also be a Catrina costume contest, which Bass Villarreal described as simply a “skeleton dressed up in the manner that a person pleases,” as well as Calavera face painting, sugar skull painting, live music and dance, and food and drinks. It all lasts until 9 p.m., and the galleries will be open as usual for First Friday.

Bass Villareal hopes it will be a fun cultural experience that encourages unity and compassion.

“It’s a time to learn about different cultures, a chance to know better other people,” he said, “and that understanding is what we need to have better relations with each other.”