Bethlehem Public Library
Adriana Santos brought the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions of Mexico alive Oct 31 at the Bethlehem Public Library’s South Side Branch. She explained the annual three-day observation has its origins in the blending of the cultures and religions of the indigenous people of the Americas and the Spanish who conquered them.
Santos said the festivities were dedicated to the goddess La Calavera Catrina also known as “Lady of the Dead.” Santos walked through the steps of setting up an altar to honor the deceased. She dedicated her altar to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).
Along with a portrait of the artist, Santos placed images of favorite traditional Mexican dishes, as well as paper Aztec marigolds, representations of sugar skulls, and other objects that would possibly be considered important to the deceased. She said families would present these ofrendas (offerings) to attract the souls of their ancestors so they could celebrate the holiday together.
Festively decorated calaveras (skulls) and skeletons, influenced by Mexican political cartoonist and illustrator José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), adorned masks, poems written about the dead, and candy.
Following her presentation on the Día de los Muertos traditions, Santos taught attendees how to create their own Day of the Dead masks, paper marigolds and papel picado (perforated paper) from folded tissue paper.
The Día de los Muertos educational project which was presented at both north and south branches of the Bethlehem Public Library was funded by a 2019-2020 Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA) grant through the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.