Día de los Muertos Activities Bring Beloved Celebration to Yakima Valley | Scene


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Halloween may be upon us, but organizations in the Yakima area are ready to celebrate an equally beloved holiday that honors those who have passed away.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated annually on November 1 and 2 by millions of people in the United States and Latin America, although it is most closely associated with Mexico. The holiday has its origins in the traditions of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

The holiday is a time for friends and family to come together and celebrate loved ones who have passed away.

A traditional way to celebrate is to build an ofrenda, or altar, decorated with photos and keepsakes of deceased loved ones, as well as candles, marigolds and calaveras, or decorative skulls often made of sugar or ceramic.

Celebration in Tieton

The biggest celebration of Día de los Muertos in the Yakima region takes place every year in Tieton. Tieton Arts and Humanities has a full day of performances, vendors, and art exhibits from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays at the Mighty Tieton Warehouse and downtown.

Guest artists and artists from across the Pacific Northwest will join local artists on Sunday afternoon. Performers scheduled include the AC Davis High School Folkloric Ballet, the Yakama Nation Little Swan Dancers, dancing horses, mariachi bands, and the Sounds of the Past, a Portland music group that also features Aztec dancers. .

There will also be a parade led by the dancing horses around Tieton Square, in which visitors are encouraged to participate, said Amber Knox, executive director of Tieton Arts and Humanities.

“I am absolutely delighted that we have a return from the live performance,” said Knox. “We did our best to put on a video performance last year, but it just doesn’t hold up.”

Rosie Saldaña, program associate and volunteer coordinator with Tieton Arts and Humanities, is involved in planning the free event. She said she looks forward to the expanded art exhibition.

“My first year here was maybe two or three pieces of art hanging in the gallery,” she said. “And then it got a little bigger the next year, then last year it was pretty big, and then this year it’s going to be huge.”

The exhibit will feature artwork by Jake Prendez as well as many local artists, Saldaña said. The tapete, or sand painting, by Oaxacan artist Fulgencio Lazo, will also be on display.

The installation “Dos Fridas” will return, where artists bring to life the iconic painting of Mexican artist and activist Frida Kahlo. Raúl Sánchez, poet laureate from Redmond, will also be present on Sunday. A giant papier-mâché skeleton will make its debut. Artist Cindy Lemus will play La Catrina.

Local vendors will have a market for visitors to visit, Saldaña said.

This will be the 11th year that Tieton Arts and Humanities has hosted a celebration. Saldaña said preparations run all year round and take place in the fall thanks to teamwork and the help of volunteers.

Last year the gallery’s exhibition was open to the public, but most of the performances have been moved online due to the pandemic.

This year’s celebration features COVID security protocols. Visitors must wear masks, but do not have to prove their vaccination status to enter, Knox said. A vaccination clinic will be set up during the event. Children’s crafts will be available in individual bags for participants to take home, rather than having strangers share supplies.

The community altar, a highlight of the event, will remain in place until November 21. After this Sunday, visitors will be able to see the altar on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Members of the community are encouraged to place pictures or keepsakes related to their own loved ones on the altar.

“Not everyone can come for the one-day celebration, and it’s so beautiful that we don’t want to waste the opportunity to let people see it at their own pace,” Knox said.

Discussions with guest artists will take place on Saturdays in November.

Yakima downtown altar

A community altar is also being erected in downtown Yakima. It will be on display at 16 N. Third St. starting Saturday, October 30 to November 6.

The Yakima-Morelia Sister City association is organizing the construction of community altars. Preparations for the altar started a bit late this year due to the pandemic, said Clara Eustis, vice president of the organization and coordinator of its Día de los Muertos committee.

Members of the public are welcome to view all altars from noon to 5 p.m. daily and contribute photos of loved ones if they wish. The association asks all visitors to wear a mask, Eustis said.

The public altars align with the organization’s mission, which is to foster understanding between the cultures of Yakima and Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. The association has been organizing public altars since 2005.

“I think over the years we’ve been able to kind of educate the community in the tradition of what this really means,” Eustis said. “And I think more and more people have adopted it.”

In the past, participating groups have built up to 30 altars. The association is still finalizing the groups that will participate this year, but people or organizations interested in building an altar can contact Eustis at 509-833-0954.

Musical celebration

Locarno, with Tom Landa, singer and guitarist of The Paperboys, will give a performance that will showcase his Mexican heritage at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Seasons Performance Hall.

Landa, who was born in Mexico, will explore music from Mexico, Cuba and Latin America during the concert, according to the event’s website.

The Day of the Dead show is partly sponsored by the Yakima-Morelia Sister City association. Tickets start at $ 18 and are available online at The Seasons website.

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Sara H. Byrd

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