PHILADELPHIA, 2012—Penn Museum offers a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) Celebration with a distinctively Maya focus Saturday, November 3, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Visitors will view an imposing Day of the Dead Altar created just for the event, watch dancers from two local music and cultural groups, enjoy storytelling and traditional crafts, and hear about Day of the Dead traditions and variations practiced around the world. Day of the Dead at the Penn Museum is cosponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center of Philadelphia. The celebration is free with admission to the Museum's special exhibition, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time ($22.50 for adults; $18.50 Military with ID or seniors, 65 and above; $16.50 for students and children, 6 to 12, free to Members and children 5 and younger) or with general Museum admission ($12 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, 65 and above; $10 for U.S. Military; $8 for children, 6 to 17, and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger).
Cesar Viveros, renowned Philadelphia artist and muralist, builds a traditional Mexican Day of the Dead Altar in the Penn Museum's imposing Rotunda, where he has the space to create a large-scale altar viewable in the round. The altar, built over several days beginning November 1, the official Mexican holiday, will remain on view through November 7.
Constructed with love and care, these altars are built during Dia de los Muertos to honor the lives of those who have passed. Creating these altars is one of the most important traditions during Day of the Dead in Mexico—and in Mexican-American and Latino communities worldwide. The modern Mexican holiday is a rich blending of traditions, as its origins can be traced back to beliefs and activities of indigenous peoples of Central and South Mexico, as well as Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Soul's Day. The altars have three levels: one for food and flowers, offerings to those who have died; a second level that acknowledges who the altar is dedicated to (in the Penn Museum's altar, the ancient Maya, celebrated in MAYA 2012: Lords of Time, and their rich culture, is remembered); and the third and highest level, which touches on the religious traditions, including the strong pre-Hispanic tradition that to remember someone is to "bring them back" among the living, once again.
With its roots in Mexico, Day of the Dead is today a popular celebration worldwide; at 1:00 pm, three University of Pennsylvania students from the group MEChA (El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan), coming from different regions of the world, talk about how the day is celebrated where they live.
At 1:30 and again at 3:30 pm, dancers from the Philadelphia group Fuego Nuevo—children and adults dedicated to promoting traditions of ancient Mesoamerica through dances, rites, ceremonies, and arts, offer a new Maya-themed dance and movement presentation inspired by the Museum's MAYA 2012: Lords of Time exhibition.
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