A Tradition That Lasts a Lifetime

Oct. 31, 2019 may be the day of Halloween, but it also marks the beginning of Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as The Day of the Dead.

The Penn Museum hosted its 8th annual Day of the Dead celebration, encouraging people to come learn about this traditional Mexican tradition, that can be commonly misconceptualized as Mexico’s version of Halloween. But, the Penn Museum’s director of learning and public engagement, Ellen Owens, says the history of the celebration “goes so much deeper.”

“Dia de los Muertos dates back to Aztec times. It’s got its roots in indigenous culture, and as a museum, we think that’s very valuable for people to learn the historical significance behind things,” Owens said.

In order to celebrate that history, people put their loved ones’ favorite foods and pictures onto the ofrenda as a way to honor them and keep their memory alive. The detail of the ofrenda was a major theme of the Disney movie, Coco, which some say helped bridge the gap for those who might have misunderstood what this worldwide celebration truly stands for.

“I think Coco helped a lot of people to see the day of the death more than just a party, and to understand the meaning of this celebration, that we are connected with the people that were here before us,” Carlos Jose Berezsam, said.

The Penn Museum built its event around the re-designed Mexico and Central America Gallery. It is also offering anyone with a Philadelphia-based college student ID free admission to the museum on Wednesdays, following its grand re-opening.

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