Día de los Muertos, a Mexican and Mexican-diaspora tradition, has been officially observed in Anchorage for 19 years. The living greet the dead with altars of lights, food, flowers, pictures, and art in early November, according to belief. Indigenous traditions bring joy and sorrow to the celebration
Event organizers Indra Arriaga Delgado and Itzel Zagal helped guests put up altars and paintings at Out North Gallery in Anchorage for the occasion. According to Delgado, Día de los Muertos is a day to honor and appreciate deceased loved ones.
Anchorage co-organizer Zagal appeals to the four winds and welcomes ancestors outside the gallery to begin the celebration. She smokes copal, a fragrant tree resin, while her 10-year-old son plays a caracol seashell instrument he learned at 3. Altar lights will guide the deceased to the celebration.
“We have the three layers, the three tiers of the ofrenda,” Franke remarked. “We decorated it with red and orange tissue paper flowers. Batteries power our candles. Then we put up our sugar skull calavera block print.
Franke, a Native movement community education coordinator, made this shrine to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
At home, Franke has been celebrating for the past five years, as it's been a way to connect with their Mexican heritage. Franke was adopted as a child into a family of Guatemalan and American heritage, but they have always known about their ancestral ties to Mexico.
Franke said, “It's been such a journey to feel really secure in my identities and so, having a tradition that I know I will be grounded in each year has been a part of claiming that identity and being more confident in that for myself and finding community. “Alaska feels far from Mexico and my roots.”
“I see Día de los Muertos as a place for cultural resistance,” Zagal stated. “For a community, it's a place where the children and new generations raised here can have a closer connection to their roots.”
Día de muertos is celebrated openly, which is one reason for its existence. Not everyone must be Latina. Not everyone must be Mexican. Delgado stated we all share Indigenousness, therefore you don't have to be Indigenous. It provides a place for individuals to seek assistance when needed. It aids healing.”
Both my grandma and father passed away. It changes meaning. Because they're here, Delgado said. It calms my dying fears. I'm still frightened of death. I suppose everyone fears death. I understand. I know it's natural. Good stuff. Returning to Earth and being part of memory is crucial.”
We remark, ‘There is more time than life.’ The principles associated with Día de los Muertos help me realize my transience in this world. I can't keep stuff nobody else has, Delgado stated.