MCS holds Dia de Los Muertos celebration

Photo By Walt Mares: A rather ominous-looking figure rubs a temporary tattoo on a woman at the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Morenci Club on Nov. 1. The figure is Anthony Vidales, a staff member of Morenci Community Services which held the event. Although it was held the day after Halloween it was a totally separate event. Dia de Los Muertos is meant to provide the living with a connection with friends and family members who have departed this life.

Event is not a follow up to Halloween

By Walt Mares

MORENCI – Halloween was over or was there a second night of it? Not at all. Halloween is a night of fright. The night belonged to monsters, mummies, witches, vampires, Haunted Houses and other types of scary things.

The following night, “Dia de Los Muertos” involved skulls and skeletons but it was not a day or night to be frightened. Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead – is meant to be a day of connection with friends and families who have departed this life. It is a Mexican tradition that began hundreds of years ago. People gather to remember friends and family members how have died and help support them on their spiritual journey.

That was the message delivered the evening of Nov. 1 at the Morenci Club. The event was sponsored and organized by the Morenci Community Services staff. It was the brainchild of MCS staff member Holly Merrill.

Several tables were joined together and covered with bright flowers, candles, and mementos. The display, which reminded one of an altar, included many photographs and other memorabilia of family and friends who have gone on to the great beyond.

Photo By Walt Mares: Gary Goode holds a photograph of his mother that was part of a display featuring many photos of friends and family members who have departed this life. The memorial, that resembled an altar, was part of the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Morenci Club on Nov. 1. It was put on by Morenci Community Services. With Goode is his grandson Lebron, who had never seen his great-grandmother’s photos. Gary termed the event “a very good way” to learn about and connect with ancestors.

It was at the display that Gary Goode’s grandson Lebron first saw a photo of his great-grandmother. “This is the first time he has seen what she looked like,” Gary said. The photo was in a wood frame and included a prayer on a card that apparently was from her funeral services held in Connecticut.

There was no sadness involved in Gary’s recollection or the passing of his mother. In fact, he smiled as he spoke to a reporter of the event being “a very good way” of connecting with family. He said he hopes that events such as the Dia de Los Muertos will encourage others to learn about their ancestry and honor those who came before them.

After viewing his great-grandmother’s photo, Gary and Lebron joined the many others involved in the evening’s activities. They included coloring paper skulls and small paper skeletons. The paper was white and children, along with their parents, indulged in coloring the skulls and skeletons. Some skulls were done in a variety of bright colors and the small skeletons were mostly colored in black but there were some that became multi-colored.

 At one table, smaller children, mostly girls, created bright decorations, most of which resembled flowers.

Photo By Walt Mares: These girls color paper cutouts of skulls during the Dia de Los Muertos celebration held in Morenci on Nov. 1. It was of the activities, along with coloring small paper skeletons, at the celebration put on by Morenci Community Services. Most of the larger skulls ended up being very colorful.

There were also different twists in activities such as skull bowling. Different colored bowling pins were set up and a medium-sized skull was used for a bowling ball. There was a skull toss, a quite different version of a bean bag toss, in which participants tried tossing small skulls into three holes.

Those in costumes were members of the Morenci Community Center staff that includes the Morenci Public Library and Fitness Center, all of which are part of Morenci Community Services.

The most interesting, and perhaps most frightening, creature was staff member Anthony Vidales whose face was painted white. He had a black and gray beard. His very large teeth were his most prominent feature. Had there been a prize for the most outlandish costume, it would have had to go to him.

 There was also a special treat, pizza provided by R&R Pizza of Morenci. For those who had not yet eaten supper, it was indeed special.

Overall, children and parents appeared to have a great deal of fun. There was a great deal of laughter. The overall effort by Morenci Community Services was a community event that brought family and friends together in a very unique way.

The celebration of Dia de Los Muertos dates back to hundreds of years in Mexico. It is gradually being observed in the U.S., particularly in the American southwest, where a great many people have ancestral roots in Mexico. Mexican-rooted Cinco de Mayo celebrations have already become widely celebrated in the U.S.