95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Day of the Dead hits the Grand Rapids Public Library

Mariano Avila

Dozens of families filed into the downtown branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library on Sunday afternoon for an educational Day of the Dead celebration. 

Little skeletons and a Latin Ska are generally not what comes to mind when one thinks of public libraries. But for Day of the Dead, kids and grownups got their faces painted as skeletons,

"He’s not going to get me?

-He’s not going to get you.

-We’re not that kind of dead people."

And the Latin Ska band Cabildo rocked out for the families learning about Day of the Dead.

[Cabilido Music]

But beyond the fun and the food, it’s the altars that are the traditional highlight. Maribel Garcia de Navarro is from Ciudad Ixtepec, in Mexico’s state of Oaxaca. She set up a large altar at the Grand Rapids library in memory of her passed family members.

“Egg yolk bread, mole, chocolate, their water, a little salt dish to purify spirits, the water is for thirst, because they come thirsty. And fruit, whatever they liked. For example, for my mom we set out grapes and appels, for my dad too. My grandmother loved pomegranate.”

Garcia de Navarro says for her it’s more than just a celebration, she takes three days off every year.

“I put in the time for my late loved ones. I prepare their food, burn incense, I purify their altar, I play the song “God never dies” for them at noon. I light candles for them and everything. I don’t miss out on my traditions for anything in the world.”

So whether it’s building new memories with one’s children, enjoying a concert with one’s friends, or remembering relatives and ancestor, it seems this Latin American tradition is alive and well in West Michigan.    

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
Related Content