When everything from toothpaste to hair dye is touted as "age-defying," when we will inject toxins to smooth wrinkles and lift, snip and tuck everything else, one gets the impression that we're not all that thrilled with the thought of our own mortality. But even in such a youth-obsessed culture, Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, still endures.
This Mexican celebration, which began with the Aztecs, honors dead family and friends with altars and feasts. Altars are usually cheerful, featuring pictures of the honoree, his favorite items, candles, flowers (marigolds are customary) and food. Skulls and skeletons are also common decorations, but despite the morbid imagery, the holiday is a joyful one.
Though traditionally observed on November 2, many Dallas festivities and exhibits begin in October. The Dallas Museum of Art's exhibit features altars and artwork such as the rich brushstrokes of Juan J. Hernandez and a photo of the mariposa monarca--monarch butterflies--whose migration to Mexico is concurrent with Day of the Dead celebrations and are said to carry the souls of the dead with them.
The Bath House Cultural Center's Día de los Muertos show opens this weekend and will include pieces from more than 60 local, regional and international artists venerating not only people but also "things and ideas that have passed on." A variety of artists demonstrate the integration of the Mexican tradition with their own cultural heritage.
If you're really ready to enter the dead zone, Teatro Dallas presents Black Butterfly in Chloroform: Life and Stories of Bernardo Couto Castillo, the culmination of a research trip to Mexico City to unearth the forgotten works of Castillo, a 19th-century author of the macabre. The rediscovered stories are interwoven with tales of Castillo's life (which was ended at a young age by absinthe) plus the appearance of La Catrina, a recurring character and popular image in Día de los Muertos art.
You don't have to endure another lame Halloween party: Gather your loved ones (living and dead), eat some skull candy and laugh in the face of death.