Dia de los Muertos celebrated in Cleveland
By Antonio Barrios, La Prensa Correspondent
Mother Nature tried her best to dampen the spirits of this pre-Columbian celebration but the people came by the hundreds—the crowd was expected to be approximately 2,000 during the day long activities.
An explosion of faithful followers crammed into the deconsecrated Church and Parish Hall at Cleveland Public Theater (CPT), located at 6205 Detroit Ave., Cleveland.
The date—November 2—was the day that the indigenous people changed their original time to celebrate their harvest by offering “Ofrenda” to Mother Earth, “Tonantzin,” for the good crops.
With the advent of the Spanish Conquistadores, who brought their Jesuit priests with them to tame the so-called uncivilized populations that survived the genocide and atrocities perpetrated on them by the Spanish Colonization, many local customs and traditions had to be moved, changed or disguised. Catholicism did not tolerate any faith but its own.
Many came out of curiosity as they had heard of this incredible celebration that may seem a bizarre way to recall the dead but the tribal people had a wonderful happy celebration of the coming together to remember the dearly departed. It is a joyous moment of sharing and enjoying life—not a dark nor sad time—a peaceful passing on to the next life, whatever that may be.
The wonderful celebration was organized by Artistas Latinos Unidos in collaboration with the Cleveland Public Theater. Speaking to La Prensa, local Latino artist and community activist Hector Castellanos Lara noted: “It all started with Salvadore González, who worked for the Cleveland Museum of Art.”
“This was about the time that the Café Bellas Artes was gathering many local Latino artists….Salvadore spoke to me about doing a Día de los Muertos in Cleveland and we had the first show at St Joseph’s Art Hall on the east side in 2005.”
Castellanos Lara, who is from Guatemala, continued: ‘We had about 900 people come to that show. After about 3 years, we moved the event from the east side to the west side, where many Latinos live and work.’ “So we contacted Councilmen Matt Zone, who called a meeting with the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization along with Cleveland Public Theater and others and plans were made to bring this event to the Gordon Square Art District. We started with a small budget but the first year at CPT we had about 1200.”
Another artist who was there from the beginning is local Mexican artist Ana Luisa Sánchez, who spoke with La Prensa about the organization: “Salvadore first called on me to create a piece for the event; then I started to help him organize and fundraise for the event. In Mexico, this is really a huge event. I create Public Mexican Folkloric Art known as, Catrinas; I work with papier mâché and mixed media.”