Penn Museum's Day of the Dead celebration honors victims of earthquake, fires, and hurricanes

Revelers celebrated the Day of the Dead at the Penn Museum on Saturday surrounded by relics from ancient civilizations.

For the sixth year, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology teamed up with Consulmex Filadelfia and the Mexican Cultural Center of Philadelphia to bring the Mexican traditions of Dia de los Muertos to the people of Philadelphia. The centuries-old tradition celebrates lost loved ones with bright colors, music, dance, sweets, and storytelling.

The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar decorated with mementos, skulls, flowers, candles and photographs. This year’s altar, created by muralist Cesar Viveros, honored the victims of recent natural disasters, including the earthquake in central Mexico, wildfires in California, and hurricanes in Texas and the Caribbean.

Four community organizations contributed their own altars, and visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorite. Amy Romaine explored the different altars with her 7-year-old daughter, Eleanor.

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Amy Romaine and her daughter Eleanor, 7, check out the community altars at the Penn Museum's annual Day of the Dead celebration
Amy Romaine and her daughter Eleanor, 7, check out the community altars at the Penn Museum’s annual Day of the Dead celebration. (Emily Cohen for WHYY)

“We’ve been coming for most of the years she’s been alive,” Romaine said. “She started at a Spanish immersion kindergarten, and this festival helps her practice what she’s learned. It lets us explore [as a family] new ways to connect with our own ancestors.”

Some revelers came in costume with their own personal takes on Catrina (skull) makeup. Face painting was provided for those who came unprepared.

The event also offered craft activities, wares from local artisans, and information from local businesses. Independence Blue Cross set up a table to remind people about the shorter enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act and offered help navigating the system in English and Spanish.

Ollin Papalotl performed traditional Aztec dances, while Ballet Folklorico Yaretzi presented Mexican folk dances.

The festival fee included access to the whole of the Penn Museum and its artifacts from civilizations all over the world. Museum curator Simon Martin gave tours of the Mexico and Central America gallery.

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