'Dia de los Muertos' Milwaukee exhibit features ofrendas from locals, highlights social issues

NOW: ’Dia de los Muertos’ Milwaukee exhibit features ofrendas from locals, highlights social issues


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- While many celebrate Halloween this Monday, others are celebrating the Latin-American holiday known as the "Day of the Dead" or "Dia de los Muertos," in Spanish.

It's a three-part celebration of life for those loved ones who have passed away. On Milwaukee's south side, an exhibit paints the tradition in bright colors, filled with decorations of papel picado, flowers, and candy calaveras or skulls.

"It starts with 'Eve of Hallows,' tomorrow will be 'All Saints Day,' and then the next day will be the 'Day of the Dead All Souls Day,' said Alejandra Mueller.

Mueller is the program coordinator at Latino Arts, which currently features a "Day of the Dead" exhibit with various altars and historical information.

She said the idea dates back hundreds of years ago, and over time, it's been tailored to a more modern approach.

"Back then... the Aztecs had a whole month dedicated to this," Mueller said.

Local organizations, families and schools displayed their own traditions in the exhibit. 

"We have ofrendas that start with altars with three different levels, we have ofrendas that offer more storytelling of people's life and individuals," she added.

The exhibit also features social issues that pertain to the community -- gun violence with scannable, interactive photos of local victims, and "machismo" -- countless women fatally affected by domestic violence.

Mueller said there is no one right way of creating an ofrenda or celebrating the tradition, because it's personal.

"It's a way to also just go through grief, cope with grief as a way to remember them because losing a loved one can be very, very difficult and more than anything, we want to celebrate the life that was lost," she said.

The gallery is free, though a dollar donation is always welcomed and encouraged.

The exhibit will be up and running Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. until Nov. 18.

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