Peabody Museum Hosts Annual Two-Part ‘Dia de los Muertos’ Celebration

Unnamed photo
Brenda Lin

The Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Peabody Museum on Sunday afternoon drew dozens of families during the day for activities such as sugar skull painting, papel picado craft, and skull mask making.

Halloween wasn’t the only event celebrated this past weekend—the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology ensured that “Dia de los Muertos,” a festival with Mexican and Central American origins, was commemorated as well.

This weekend, the museum staged a two-part celebration. During the day, it held a family-oriented series of activities which included sugar skull painting, papel picado craft, and skull mask making. Harvard Ballet Folklórico de Aztlán, a traditional Mexican folk dancing troupe, also made an appearance.

Later on in the evening, the Peabody was the scene for a ticketed “Fiesta” event geared towards adults, which featured live music from Mariachi Veritas de Harvard, the Mexican roots band La Tuza, and salsa dancing.

The Peabody has hosted festivities to commemorate the occasion, which means “The Day of the Dead” in English, since 2002.

Pamela Gerardi, a spokeswoman for the museum, said yesterday that the event was the one of the more successful “Dias” that the Peabody has held.

“Every year it gets a bit bigger,” she said. “We expect to have a full house of 500 for the Fiesta. We had about 300 to 400 people for family event today.”

Most of the visitors who attended said they had a good time, although not everyone could enjoy the fiesta. Ana E. Garduno, a student at the Graduate School of Education, said that she had not been able to obtain a ticket.

“I tried to get a ticket for the day’s Fiesta but it’s all sold out,” she said. “I will definitely try to get one for next year’s event.”

It wasn’t only the adults who had fun—the younger visitors enjoyed the opportunity to showcase their knowledge about Dia de los Muertos.

“In Spanish class they [my children] learned about it,” said Natalie S. Fitzgerald, a resident of Milton, Mass., located just south of Boston. “My son knew about it when we came in.”

Fitzgerald added that she thought that the museum’s activities helped to draw a younger crowd—and their parents—to the building.

“They really like doing the activities!” she said. “Today we made these wonderful masks.”

Geradi said that events such as these were helpful not only for raising the Peabody’s profile, but also for drawing attention to different cultures—one of the institution’s long-standing aims.

“It is a good event for us in terms of raising the visibility of the museum,” she said. “But an important part of our mission is to reach out to people and introduce them to other cultures.”

—Staff writer Betsy L. Mead can be reached at emead@fas.harvard.edu.