Mesilla celebrates Dia de los Muertos
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican traditional holiday honoring and celebrating the souls of the deceased, who are believed to return to Earth once a year to visit loved ones. Each year, altars are constructed and adorned with colorful displays, and the favored food and drinks of loved ones are served in remembrance.
The town of Mesilla’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration returns to plaza this weekend, Friday, Oct. 30, to Monday, Nov. 2.
This year, altar building on the plaza begins at 2 p.m. the day before the festival, Friday, Oct. 30, when friends and family members gather to build shrines to the souls of their departed loved ones, ornamenting them with colorful papel picado and bright yellow marigolds and stocking them offerings of those things the departed – especially food, drinks and personal effects – may want to take with them.
The Dia de los Muertos celebration itself begins at 10 a.m. on All Hallows Eve, Saturday, Oct. 31, with music from Mobi Disc before the noon opening ceremonies, presented by soloist Linda Goff. That day and throughout the weekend, the plaza will be filled with not only the ofrendas, or offerings, to the dead, but also plenty of delights for the living – food, drinks, arts and crafts and other vendors will have their finest Day of the Dead wares available, along with entertainment throughout the day music from April Ticket (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.), folkloric dancing from Grupo Valle del Sol Folklorico (4 to 5 p.m.) and music from Pop Jazz (6 to 8 p.m.).
The hour in between performances – 5 to 6 p.m. – the town goes quiet as the Basilica of San Albino, at the northern end of the plaza, holds evening services.
On Sunday, Nov. 1 – All Saints Day – the festival opens again with opening ceremonies and a song by Goff at noon, followed by performances from Latin Funktion (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.) and an encore dance by Grupo Valle del Sol Folklorico (4 to 5 p.m.) The festival closes this year on Monday, Nov. 2, on All Souls Day. At 6 p.m., celebrants begin to gather on the plaza and, at 6:15 p.m., depart the plaza en masse as the candlelight procession wends its way through town to San Albino Cemetary for the Illuminación, guiding wandering souls back to their place of rest for another year. Immediately following the procession, guests will make their way back to the plaza for coffee and pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, until the festival closes.
Each year, Mesilla’s Dia de los Muertos celebration is put on by the nonprofit Calavera Coalition, a small, dedicated group of volunteers responsible for the production of this event honoring the memories of those who’ve left us. All proceeds are utilized for the facilitation of future celebrations, with a portion donated to a number of local community charities. This year, the coalition is encouraging attendees to bring with them non-perishable food items, which will be donated to Casa de Peregrinos emergency food bank.