Immerse yourself in the art, ancestry, rhythms and flavors of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) this weekend at the Seattle Center Armory. The festival runs 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.
The traditions of Dia de Muertos reach back for perhaps more than 2,000 years, since at least the time of the Aztecs in Mexico. It honors departed loved ones with ofrendas — offerings — on a colorful memorial altar welcoming them home. Once a year, for these two days, celebrants believe, the borders between the spirit world and the living dissolve, allowing spirits to visit.
The flicker of candles and the tangy scent of orange and yellow marigolds mark the spirits’ way, where they join their family to feast on their favorite foods and dance. That’s why the iconic skeletons linked to Dia de Muertos are often depicted ready for a party — with intricate makeup and elaborate dress.
Handmade altars, built with love and reverence, are the heart of the Dia de Muertos celebration. This year’s festival has two. The first, created by Grupo Colibri from Michoacán, Mexico, is for display on the third floor, and the second is an interactive community altar. Visitors are invited to bring a photo and/or memento of a loved one to the community altar on the second level for display during the festival.
Oaxacan artist Fulgencio Lazo created a tapete sand painting depicting rebel leader Emiliano Zapata on the second level and Colibri crafted a replica cemetery on the third level.
Enjoy live music and dance performances all day on the second level throughout the festival. Nineteen groups, including the award-winning band Correo Aereo, are performing, comprising folk and contemporary influences from across Mexico and Latin America. Other highlights include Bailadores de Bronce, a folkloric group, and Mariachi Quinot Sol, both from the University of Washington.
On the third level, kids will find unique crafts to enjoy, offered throughout both days starting at 11 a.m. for free with optional donation, except for third-floor face painting.
Hands-on art workshops include:
• Sugar skull-painting: No Day of the Dead offering is complete without sugar skulls. Decorate premade sugar claveritas and learn the process to make your own at home.
• Linoleum printing: The 19th-century engraver José Guadalupe Posada made the festive skeleton La Catrina famous in his satirical newspaper cartoons. In this workshop, follow in his footsteps and create a linoleum print of your original drawing. Learn engraving, with the option of making a pin button.
• Paper skull masks: Guatemalan artist José Orantes, creator of the “Funny Masks of Animals,” will teach you how to make, cut and color your masks.
• Paper flower-making: Make paper Cempasúchil — the marigolds the Aztecs called “twenty-flower” that beautify the altars.
• Face painting: Simple face-painting is available on the second level for free; more elaborate painting is on the third floor ($10 fee).
For the full experience, stop by the vendors on the second level to sample traditional foods like pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead), a sweet bread topped with a circular bone design; corn tamales; and atole, a traditional hot drink made with chocolate, cornmeal and cinnamon.
Learn more about the roots of Dia de Muertos in a talk by archaeologist Lorena Medina as well as the importance of the declaration as a World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2013; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, third level.
The festival is in its 19th year, and is part of Seattle Center’s multicultural Féstal series.
Dia de Muertos — A Mexican Celebration to Remember our Departed
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3
Location: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle