Dia de los muertos – commonly known as Day of the Dead – is a Mexican holiday to celebrate loved ones who have died, usually associated with the Catholic Church.
Traditions for Dia de los Muertos include brightly colored altars devoted to departed relatives and friends, gatherings at family burial plots in cemeteries, special music, food offerings as well as processions and dances featuring revelers in costumes that evoke images of skeletons.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Abraham Brown, who is the director of Latino Ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church to talk about Henderson’s first-ever festival.
The event is this Saturday, Nov. 2nd from 4PM to 7PM at Central Park.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth: ‘Dia de los Muertos’. Day of the dead. A celebration of life affirming joy. Yes, it is often confused with Halloween. But it’s not. And for the first time Henderson is having a ‘Dia de los Muertos’ festival this coming Saturday.
And joining me now is Abraham Brown, he is the Director of Latino Ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. He is also a Henderson restauranteur. Abraham, thank you for joining me tonight.
Abraham Brown: Thank you for having me.
Brad Byrd: Your roots are in Texas. How did you end up in Henderson?
Abraham Brown: Well, 15 years ago I was invited to work at one of the businesses here in Henderson. And little did I know that I was going to love this place and stay here. And that’s talks about how welcoming our community is to our Latino community.
Brad Byrd: And that brings me to my next question. You’ve seen it on both sides of the country so-to-speak, how has the perception of Latinos change over the years? How are they perceived today the Latino community compared to 50 years ago?
Abraham Brown: Well, let me tell you when I lived in Texas I didn’t even worry about people calling me a Latino or a Hispanic, it wasn’t until I came to this area 15 years ago that I learned I would be referred to as Latino or Hispanic, though in this 15 years the integration of Latinos have been tremendously positive in the area. I shared with you earlier when I got here, I would not see Latinos here a lot but now the Latino community just in the last 5 years has doubled almost in numbers. The integration has been tremendously positive. A lot of people are learning about our culture and the new Latinos coming to the area are also learning what it’s like to live in the area.
Brad Byrd: Let’s talk about this festival – it’s the first for Henderson at Central Park. And some people are still confused on the meaning of Day of the Dead (shows video of festivals elsewhere). Tell us where it dates back, and you tell us it dates back centuries.
Abraham Brown: Yes, many hundreds of years ago, even indigenous from Mexico were already celebrating this memorial opportunity to remember their loved ones. It was even before people from Spain came to Mexico that they were already trying to celebrate with colorful celebrations for loved ones. When the Spaniards came to Mexico, they used this celebration as a tool to share their faith. They didn’t put these celebrations on the side, they actually used them to strengthen the faith that the Spanish people brought to America. And they continue celebrating it even within their church and teachings.
Brad Byrd: Henderson City Commissioner Patti Bugg said she had received calls from people who were upset that this festival is being held in Central Park. You would welcome those people with open arms, I assume?
Abraham Brown: Of course, because once they learn about the real nature of these celebrations, I can assure you they’re going to love it. There’s more about the celebration than just listening about that – it’s remembering our loved ones. It’s all about life, not death.
Brad Byrd: And you brought with you a pinata and this is the sugar skull. Tell me about that.
Abraham Brown: This is a resemblance of a sugar skull that decorates the alters, the ofrendas, on Day of the Dead. And those sugar skulls are to resemble that life is sweet that we have to keep sweet memories of our loved ones. We decorate them with a lot of color and in the end, they’re made out of sugar. They’re sweet. And they kind of bring out the message of what Dia de los Muertos is. It’s a sweet memory of our loved ones.
Brad Byrd: And these are made out of sugar, right?
Abraham Brown: Right. That’s right. And you’ll see a lot of these decorations, wonderful exhibits that are going to be shared throughout the festival.
Brad Byrd: And there’s going to be food there too.
Abraham Brown: Oh, it’s going to be fantastic. We’re not just gonna have regular food, but we’re going to have very authentic Mexican food. We’re going to have a baker who bakes that special bread for Day of the Dead. We’ll have someone doing fresh tortillas. Wonderful tacos, tacoholics will be serving their best food at the event and food trucks. And this is a way to celebrate our culture through the food through the wonderful flavors that the Latinos bring to the area through color. We’re going to have a live Mariachi Band, wonderful music, dancers, we’re going to have a wide array of exhibits that will really really show what Dia de los Muertos is all about.
Brad Byrd: You told me about the most festive colors come out of the most impoverished areas in Mexico and it symbolizes hope.
Abraham Brown: It symbolizes hope, to be happy, to have a happy family, and to be happy. It’s celebrates the life of our loved ones.
Brad Byrd: Day of the Dead and it’s this Saturday starting when?
Abraham Brown: At 4PM, it runsfrom 4pm to 7pm. Wonderful food, wonderful music, we’re going to have a lot of arts and crafts that children can come and enjoy. They can make sugar skulls, color a lot of wonderful things, this is a family event. We’ll have wonderful things for every member of the family.
Brad Byrd: Well, Abraham Brown thank you so much for coordinating this event. It should be a good day. And thank you for being here tonight.
Abraham Brown: Thank you. Thank you for being so welcoming to our Latinos. This is just one way Henderson is showing that it’s welcoming diversity with open arms. So, thank you everybody. And we hope we can see you there at Dia de los muertos.
(This story was originally published on October 30, 2019)