Artistic Spirits: Dia de Muertos highlight of Calle Calaveras event

Brownsville is celebrating Dia de Muertos with a community event at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art and Linear Park.

The City of Brownsville, The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, El Consulado de México en Brownsville and other organizations have partnered to celebrate with the “Calle Calavera” event, which focuses on the traditions of the annual holiday.

With altar de muertos, costumes of Mexico, food, photographs, videos and giant colorful calaveras, the exhibit honors the culture of Día de Muertos while also educating the community on various customs. This year, the Consulado de México en Brownsville decided to pay tribute to healthcare workers who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are celebrating this tradition that we have in Mexico, which is el Día de Muertos, and it’s a great opportunity to pay homage to those who have given their lives to save others and help during this pandemic,” Mexican Consul Juan Carlos Cue Vega said. “We thought it was important to do this because they deserve all the respect and recognition from all of us.”

Deyanira Ramirez, executive director at the museum, said it is important to support local artists, especially Latinos, who are embracing their roots with this exhibit.

The exhibit will run until Nov. 28.

“For us it’s an honor to have this type of exhibits because we are at the border with Mexico and this is a culture that it’s 100% Mexican with the calaveras, the altar de muertos and all this exhibit that puts together several pieces put together by local artists who are Latinos,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate the lives of those who passed away with this altar de muertos, and I want to invite the community to come and celebrate this so they can also enjoy it and we cultivate this emotional theme, which is Día de Muertos.”

Josie Del Castillo, a local artist who participated in the exhibit, said living on the border allows its people to create a unique culture and that she hopes the community learns to appreciate the art even more–so that local artists continue creating work.

“Living on the border, we are able to experience this mixture of both cultures, both traditions in our own unique way and being raised here on the border, our artwork reflects our lives,” she said.

Cecilia Sierra, a local artist who also participated in the exhibit, said celebrations of Día de Muertos on the border is different because artists do their own interpretation of it through their artwork.

“Día de Muertos to me means honoring those who have passed but also honoring our traditions. Every year, we do the same thing, we change it a little bit and even though we do it in a contemporary way, we do our interpretation of it,” she said.

Samantha Rawls, local artist, said even though she is not Mexican she has embraced Día de Muertos as her own culture.

“For me, being part of this exhibit, being part of el Día de Muertos as a Honduran and Salvadoran, not really a Mexican but I was born and raised here,” she said. “So I’ve learned the culture and embraced it myself, and it’s an amazing experience to be part of it and learn from it as we are incorporating it into our artwork.”

Felipe Romero, director of communications and marketing for Brownsville, said Calle Calaveras started as an idea to celebrate Día de Muertos and the Mexican roots on the border. He said it is important to have events like this one which showcase the work of local artists.

“There’s a lot of people involved on this exhibit, which is what makes it so great,” he said. “To me it is very important to support our local talent and that was the challenge, because we have so many talented artists here and so how can we do an exhibit that develops the community and develops the culture and the feeling of having something nice, even though we are living under a pandemic.”