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Remembrance and Healing in the Mexican Ofrenda

Barrick Museum display for Dia de los Muertos welcomes additions through this week.

Arts and Culture  |  Oct 31, 2017  |  By UNLV News Center
Mexican ofrenda altar

A profusion of colorful flowers, an abundance of exquisite dishes, and a plentitude of carefully cut papel picado illuminated by the flicker of candles are all used in an ofrenda to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away.

Students in professor Miriam Melton-Villanueva’s History of Mexico class constructed an ofrenda at the Barrick Museum to share with our diverse UNLV community.  The purpose was both to honor their own loved ones but commemorate those who lost their lives during the Route 91 Music Harvest Festival. Each student brought an item to place on the altar as a symbol of unity, strength, and remembrance — characteristics that emerged throughout the Valley in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 shooting.

These ofrendas, or offerings, consist of an intricately decorated platform with pictures of the deceased and some of their favorite items and foods, and these altars can be set up in homes, churches, and even plazas. Created every year for El Día de los Muertos festivities, ofrendas have appeared in Christian calendars during All Saints’ Day, and can be traced back to the Nahua celebration in Mexico, miccaihuitl, which translates to Day of the Dead.

The ofrenda remains up through the end of this week; more additions are welcome.

Written by UNLV student Maribel Estrada-Calderon.