Steeped in both Catholic and Mexican cultural traditions honoring those who have departed before us, Día de los Muertos, Nov. 1–2, is a two-day event that follows All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween).
This festive celebration typically features fun-filled activities and items to represent life’s journey and passage, including candles, crosses, skeletons, sugar skulls, and bright marigold flowers. Elaborate retablos (altar paintings) are often erected to summon spirits to visit from their graves. Relics are decorated in vibrant colors and dressed with symbols to tell a story with the idea of connecting the living and the dead.
The Coachella Valley offers plenty of opportunities to participate in this holiday.
Running throughout October, the CV Days of Los Muertos is a collaborative program presented by the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert (the Galen), Raices Cultura, Run with Los Muertos, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, and Sunnylands Center & Gardens. Each Sunday, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert hosts Days of Los Muertos activities such as puppet making and marigold planting.
Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, 71701 Gerald Ford Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-321-0602; www.cdmod.org
At Sunnylands, Day of the Dead’s installations include altars and calaveras (skulls) by young local artists from Raices Cultura (Oct. 24, 28–29). Guests visiting during the evening are encouraged to bring flashlights.
Run with Los Muertos is a health and cultural event in the Pueblo Viejo district of Coachella being held Oct. 30. Join hundreds of runners and enjoy large-scale art installations and altars by Raices Cultura, live performances, and food stands.
City Hall, Coachella. www.runwithlosmuertos.com
The Galen and Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden comes alive on Day of the Dead with music, art-making, and food (Nov. 1). Masks, papel picado, paper flowers, Posada-style printmaking, and skull magnets are just some of the fun crafts planned. Live entertainment includes performances by Danza Azteca Citlaltonac Tierra dancers and Mariachi Azteca de Oro de José Valdez.
Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600; www.psmuseum.org
Cathedral City is sponsoring the Palm Springs Cemetery District’s Dia de los Muertos event on Nov. 1 at Desert Memorial Park. This free event, featuring mariachi, folklórico ballet, a puppet show, face painting, arts and crafts, and food, benefits the Well in the Desert.
The La Quinta Museum hosts a Día de los Muertos Cigar Shadow Box Exhibit Oct. 1–Nov. 7. Traditionally cigar boxes have been used to create shadow box shrines (also called retablos or ofrendas) for items that honor the dead. Here area residents offer their own interpretations of grinning skulls and dancing skeletons to celebrate memories, loved ones, and the overall theme of the holiday.
La Quinta Museum, 77885 Avenida Montezuma, La Quinta. 760-777-7170; www.la-quinta.org
The Coachella Valley History Museum holds its third Annual Día de los Muertos celebration and fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 7. Enjoy dinner, tequila tasting, art, music, and a silent auction. Bring a photo and a token from a loved one for the community altar.
Coachella Valley History Museum, 82616 Miles Ave., Indio. 760-342-6651; www.cvhm.org
What’s a Party Without Food?
Día de los Muertos favorites include the sweet pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”) and dishes such as chicken mole, tamales, enchiladas, and maize cakes. Of course, adult beverages and lots of water are also at hand for thirsty “spirits” traveling on their path.
Sugar skulls are made with simple granulated sugar, meringue powder, and water. Once the skull molds have dried, they’re decorated with beads, glitter, crowns, and other personal touches to honor the memory of a loved one.