The Richmond Art Center celebrates Dia de los Muertos “to educate people about such an important cultural event”.

Among drugstore offerings of Halloween consumer goods, any Dia de los Muertos-themed item invariably stands out.

Decorations featuring iconic skulls and cempasúchil marigolds, or candy branded with characters from Pixar’s “Coco” movie speak to the increasing commercialization of the holiday once outside the corporate spotlight.

But the holiday has a more cultural significance in Mexico, where it originated. And on Saturday, the Richmond Art Center will share that tradition with a Dia de los Muertos-themed fall family day, featuring art, music, and even miniature remote-controlled low riders from Cruz Arroyo’s collection. , which runs a popular tamale stand. in Richmond.

“There are instances where I’ve seen someone hold an event for Day of the Dead, but it’s more of an entertainment program or event. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s missing the real ancestral connections that are really important and really real,” said Roberto Martinez, exhibitions director at the Richmond Art Center. “I think it’s important to teach, to educate people about a such an important cultural event.”

Martinez worked closely with a number of local artists like Daniel Camacho and Ernesto Olmos, among others, to plan a day of festivities to inspire the expected 300-500 attendees.

Camacho, whose exhibition “De Fantasías y Realidades” is currently on display at the Richmond Art Center, will lead the day by setting up a community ofrenda in the main hallway. Its calaveritas workshops will craft the skulls that adorn the altar alongside offerings of food and items brought in by community members in hopes of celebrating those they have lost.

“The idea is to share my culture a bit. It is a very important day in Mexico. I know people want to express their feelings about those who have passed away,” Camacho said. “It brings families together. This is the important thing.

Richmond Art Center
Daniel Camacho (wearing a hat) leads a calaverita workshop for Dia de los Muertos. (Sasha Schell)

Ernesto Olmos, artist and specialist in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican traditions, will give a presentation on the cosmology and history of Dia de los Muertos. For him, making offerings during an ofrenda are not mere gestures, but rather a vehicle connecting the living to those who have gone before them.

It’s about honoring our ancestors, Olmos said, and how we view the dead.

“If you want to build something, really do it,” he said. “Put on fruit, talk to them, cry.”

Olmos worries that the true meaning of the day is sometimes forgotten as the fun side of the holiday is brought to the fore. But traditions that had been hidden “in the kitchens, in the dress, in the language”, are being rediscovered as older people talk more about the custom, he added.

Organizations such as the Richmond Art Center are instrumental in preserving that history and traditions, Martinez said.

The event at the Art Center is an opportunity to strengthen cultural traditions that have been diluted by the process of assimilation, he said. “Places like this are important to keep that.”

Richmond Art Center

FALL FAMILY DAY

When: noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, October 15

Where: Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave.

Admission: Free