Stories, food, flowers mark El Dia de los Muertos

By Brianna Rolfe
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE


People from across the community came to pay homage to their lost relatives at the South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, SEEDS, El Dia de los Muertos celebration, held Nov. 3.

The Azteca Dance Troup, with main dancer Kali, performs a traditional ceremony in front of the altar. Kali wears traditional dress of a scull mask, shells around his ankles and patterns and feathers throughout the rest of his ensemble.

SEEDS held the celebration from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the SEEDS gardens at 706 Gilbert St. It was a night full of traditional dance and celebration. “This celebration is a way to introduce this culture to those who don’t know about it,” said Emily Egge, executive director of SEEDS.

El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional holiday that originated in Mexico and is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2.

This year SEEDS partnered with El Centro Hispano and The Scrap Exchange to bring this event to the community. “We like to work with other partner organizations in the community to make it a community event,” said Egge.

Lights draped through the trees that could be seen from a distance, inviting people to come see what was going on. Candle lit bags guided people down the path into the gardens where the main celebration was being held.

“We try to provide people with a beautiful space to celebrate at,” said Egge.

Lit candles filled the gardens, commemorating deceased ancestors. There was also a fire pit where people gathered around to talk, eat and share stories. On the other side of the gardens people stood at craft stations to make their own candle with a photo of a loved one.

Many families attended and brought their young children. Children walked around, taking in the performance and helping to make candles with pictures of loved ones.

Many attendees made candles with the pictures of deceased loved ones.

As the main event of the night, the Azteca Dance Troupe performed. “Kali and the Azteca Dance Troupe are making different offerings,” said Alexis Mastromichalis, SEEDS office administrator.

Kali and the dance troupe performed traditional dances around an altar. Two young girls, dressed in traditional garb, danced alongside Kali, the main dancer. “The dance commemorates earth, wind, water and fire,” said Mastromichalis.

Traditional decorations used to celebrate El Dia de los Muertos adorned the altar. Brightly decorated sculls, candles, photos and cut out, vibrantly colored tissue paper strung from the trees.

As people watched the Azteca Dance Troupe perform they were able to indulge in some traditional foods, including meats and sweet breads.

The event welcomed all cultures to attend, even though it is a Hispanic tradition, according to Egge. Eleanor, one of the event attendees whose last name was not provided, spoke about the candles she made. “I made some of these,” she said. “They are some of my ancestors.”

Egge said, “It has been several years since we have held it at SEEDS.” Although, according to her, there are other places in Durham people have celebrated at each year.

According to Egge, she was pleased to have the event at the gardens because “We have people in the SEEDS organization who celebrate this event too,” she said.

The El Dia de los Muertos event was popular according to Mastromichalis. She said, “I think the event was a huge success in that it brought new faces,diverse families and culture. We had over 150 people attend throughout the night.”

Egge said, “We were excited to bring it back to the gardens this year.”