Throughout the day on October 26, Oakland Museum of California hosted the Dias de los Muertos Community Celebration, marking an impressive milestone of 20 years for this party. Craft activities, tasty traditional food, dance and music groups, and colorful ofrendas bring the community together during this event. Visitors watched demonstrations of traditional Mesoamerican arts and cooking, and browsed the Mercado for Days of the Dead merchandise by local artisans. At the Oak Street entrance, a special mural by Jesse Hernandez, also known as street artist Urban Aztec, created a massive mural, “Dance of the Dead” that blends historic traditions of Mexico and material culture from Aztec civilization with modern and contemporary Mexican art and artists.
Inside the museum’s Gallery of California Art, the annual special exhibition that shares not only the history but also local interpretations of celebrating Dia de Muertos, “Songs and Sorrows: Días de los Muertos 20th Anniversary,” illustrates the holiday’s enduring significance. “Songs and Sorrows” this year includes highlights of artwork from the past two decades of the exhibition, new works by local artists, and artwork from the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection, including several posthumous prints by famed artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, that shows wide breadth of the visual, material, and cultural histories of the holiday. From jovial skeletons doing the Twist on a record album to a sculptural diorama of a Velora, “Death of a Homeboy” by Richard and Graciela Rios, Oakland Museum of California’s “Songs and Sorrows” aims to illustrate how Mexican-Americans affirmed their bi-cultural heritage through this holiday by observing Mexican traditions that integrate their American histories and culture, a significant part of the history and cultural fabric of the United States.