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GRPM's "A Celebration of Souls" exhibit explores Dia de los Muertos traditions

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Kylie Ambu/WGVU Photo
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A Celebration of Souls - GRPM

The exhibit features Dia de los Muertos traditions in Southern Mexico, as well as ofrenda displays honoring West Michigan's own.

Grand Rapids Public Museum is honoring Dia de los Muertos traditions with its "A Celebration of Souls Exhibit: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico" exhibit.

Dia de los Muertos is a holiday that originated in Mexico and is celebrated widely across Latin America. The day honors the lives of the deceased through food, drinks, music, and altars, among other traditions. Though practices can vary by location, it’s believed that the dead awaken during Dia de los Muertos and connect with their loved ones.

Grand Rapids Public Museum’s latest exhibit “A Celebration of Souls” explores Day of the Dead traditions in Oaxaca, a southern region of Mexico. Portions of the exhibit were brought in from the Field Museum in Chicago. These 26 photos on the walls show people preparing centuries-old recipes for the departed to enjoy, scattering trails of marigolds to guide the dead home and offering “bread of the dead” at community gatherings.

GRPM said it also incorporated local communities, displaying ofrendas or small, personal alters of West Michigan’s own. Professor and Artist, Margaret Vega partnered with the GRPM on a display honoring her father, Francisco Vega (1922-2021). Francisco was a leader in the Latino community of West Michigan and a grassroots organizer for civil rights. He was also a lifelong entrepreneur, business consultant in the US and Central America, and a passionate leader at the national level.

The GRPM also collaborated with the Latino Community Coalition’s Nuestra HERencia project to create an ofrenda for this exhibit. Nuestra HERencia honors the rich history and legacies of women here in Grand Rapids.

GRPM told WGVU the exhibit is a way to honor its community partners and provide education about the important celebration. "A Celebration of Souls" will run through November 27.

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