Celebrating a cultural tradition to remember the dead

HARLINGEN — Markie Watkin and Jaime Villanueva walked closely together as they strolled through the museum gallery pointing out the Dia De Los Muertos photography they liked the most.

The couple toured the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum’s latest exhibit celebrating the Mexican tradition of honoring those departed.

“These are beautiful pictures,” said Markie, a Washington state native. “I actually had not seen anything like this before.”

The photography explores the longtime Mexican tradition from the eye of Valley native Ric Vasquez.

Vasquez, an award winning photographer, focuses his lens on the many people who celebrate Dia De Los Muertos from San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico.

His exhibit is called Recuerdame Celebrating Life and Death. The exhibit photos date as far back as the 1980s and will be on display until Nov. 11.

“It’s really pretty awesome,” Markie said.

According to Wikipedia, scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican Day of the Dead holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years. The holiday has spread throughout the world and has been absorbed into deep traditions of honoring the dead.

On the opposite end of the museum in the second exhibit hall area, residents created alters to remember and celebrate the life of their loved ones.

The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum hosts Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, an altar exhibit set up by people in the community, commemorating family members, friends and beloved pets annually.

The many shrines are draped with cloth and decked with bright colors and photos of the dead.

The exhibits tell a tale about the person, who they were and what they liked.

“People should come see the exhibits because it will teach you more about Hispanic heritage,” said Julissa Mangana, Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum tour guide. “It will bring you back to the old school Mexican traditions.”

What is Day of the Dead?

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican tradition to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who have departed. It is believed the spirits of the dead visit their families on Oct. 31 and leave on Nov. 2.


WHAT: Dia de los Muertos exhibits

WHERE: Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum, 2425 Boxwood St.

WHEN: Oct. 16 to Nov. 11, 6 – 8 p.m.

ADMISSION: Free to the public