Jul 29, 2014
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Colorful Dia de los Muertos Exhibit at Healdsburg Museum

Hispanic MAYO club at Healdsburg High raises their traditions in annual display. Includes audio introduction to the exhibit, in Spanish and English.

For the second year running, the Healdsburg Museum is hosting a exhibit, put together by the MAYO Club of . The exhibit opened Nov. 2 with a reception at the museum, and continues through Nov. 15.

MAYO, the Mexican American Youth Organization, is about 10 years old, according to advisor Toni Saunders, and has about 60 members this year, “More than we ever had before.” Members of the club gathered the materials and artifacts for the exhibit, and put up the display earlier this week.

The club members meet weekly to find ways to incorporate traditions from their home country – not always Mexico, but almost always in Latin America – to keep their heritage and culture alive. About half the club's members, including this year's president Jocelin Padilla, were on hand to share stories about the exhibit.

A special audio tour was produced for this brief but important exhibit, written and narrated by several members of the MAYO club, in both Spanish and English. and Fred Campbell produced the tour, and they were both present as well.

Bright orange marigolds, votive candles, fruits, favorite drinks, sugar skulls and photographs of the deceased are arranged in tribute "ofrendas" on the left side of the museum’s exhibit hall, a vivid display of color and vitality in stark contrast to the black restraint of 19th century death memorials, as curator Holly Hoods pointed out.

Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is the tradition of celebrating the deceased in most Spanish-speaking Catholic countries, which in Mexico has risen to the status of a national holiday. It’s usually celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, All Saints Day and All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar.

“It’s a festive day, a way of welcoming our departed family members,” explained MAYO advisor Auria Correa. “There’s music, celebration – the whole family is there.” In keeping with that tradition, a hot chocolate drink called champurrado and pan de muertos were served.

Most of the colorful articles in the exhibit have significance, though some are purely decorative. The marigolds, for instance, are chosen not only for their color but their strong scent, which helps the departed find the altar that honors them.

There are four main displays in the exhibit, one for grandparents, one for other recently deceased family members, and one for the two fellow students at Healdsburg High who lost their lives in the past year, Juliana Apolinar and Jason Smith.

A fourth exhibit around the corner honors two celebrities who recently died, the Mexican comic actor Capulina, and software wizard Steve Jobs. On display are several quotes from Jobs such as “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me,” as well as  a photograph of one of his many cars without a license plate – he hated licenses, and had to get a new car every six months to stay within state law.

Hoods and other members of the museum staff and volunteers were clearly pleased with the turnout and exhibit, and Hoods said they are planning an exhibit on the Hispanic history in Healdsburg for next year.

“There is just so much energy and commitment among the kids who put this together,” said Museum president . “It’s really been something."

The “Dia de los Muertos” exhibit at the Healdsburg Museum runs through November 15. The Museum is open free to the public from Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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