Celebrate life while honoring the dead

La Catrina, a painted skull mask, is a popular element of Día de los Muertos.

Dennis Tedrow remembers seeing the special loaves of bread bearing the familiar symbol of Christianity; only made with two crossed bones and then dusted with special colorful sprinkles.

What are these, he asked his parents confused by the new addition taking up half of the normal weekly order of bread for the family’s restaurant.

Pan de muerto. The bread of the dead.

We will sell all of it over the next two days, his father told him. “And sure enough, we sold every one of them,” said Dennis.

The bread was a sweet treat for the dead as part of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a multi-day holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and parts of Latin America that honors loved ones who have died.

Recently, the Dubois County Museum received a grant to increase cultural connections between the Latinos and Anglos in Dubois County. With the grant, the local partnership, which includes several area organizations, two school corporations, VUJ, and others, decided to introduce the annual Day of the Dead celebration to the community.

“This is a celebration of love after death,” said Rossina Sandoval, director of Community Engagement at Southwest Dubois County School Corporation.

The celebration that occurs on the day after Halloween incorporates colorful flowers, bright banners, special masks (La Catrinas and Catrins), butterflies, and photos of the beloved deceased displayed on special altars. These special elements are meant to help the spirits make their way to the celebrations.

“They’re extra colorful because that brings life,” Rossina said. “And then we have a lot of elements our deceased loved ones enjoyed when they were living. If you go and look at the details of every altar, you’ll see little pieces. And those are the things material things they enjoyed.”

As a welcome or in memory of these deceased individuals, families will decorate the altars with items associated with their deceased loved ones whether it is a special food, a game, or even a cherished possession.

While we can bridge cultural gaps through sharing in our common grief for those who have passed away, this annual event is also a bittersweet celebration of life while remembering those lost loves ones.

Volunteers have built a large community altar in the museum using some of the grant funding. It is available for the community to participate and include their own loved ones in the Day of the Dead celebration being held on Monday.

Rossina hopes that by inviting the public to take part in the event, they can learn more about the growing multicultural elements in Dubois County.

There are plenty of empty picture frames available for these beloved photos to be included. Photos of the deceased can be dropped off at the museum or brought with you to Monday’s special program.

Rossina Sandoval has included images of her grandparents in the community alter for the upcoming Día de los Muertos.

The program runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Doors open at 5 with attendees viewing and learning about the altars and the holiday.

At 6 p.m. University of Southern Indiana Professor Manuel Apodaca will present, Day of the Dead: Celebration, Mythology and Tradition.

The evening will conclude from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. with a Latinx Dance Class with instructor Daisy Valdez-Perez and refreshments featuring traditional breads and sweets. 

This program has been made possible by a grant from Indiana Humanities in cooperation with the National Endowment of the Humanities. Partners in this program are: Vincennes University Jasper, ALASI, Southwest Dubois School Corporation, Latino Collaboration Table, University Southern Indiana and Greater Jasper School Corporation.

Monarch butterflies are part of the celebration because they traditionally migrate and arrive in Central America right around the time of the annual celebration.


One Comment

  1. What a beautiful celebration!

    It’s heart-warming to see cultures sharing and learning from one another.

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