Celebrate the Tradition!: Día de los Muertos

Manu Montero Dance Company performing on stage
The Maru Montero Dance Company. performing at the Smithsonian

Octavio Paz, the celebrated Mexican author and Nobel laureate, wrote, “The Mexican . . . is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love. True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away.” The Mexican and Central American celebration of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, exemplifies this custom. With its roots in Mesoamerican history and culture, the celebration has expanded through the United States in recent years. Now it’s coming to the National Portrait Gallery!

On the evening of Monday, November 2, we are filling the Kogod Courtyard with the sights and sounds of Día de los Muertos. The event includes live music, dancing, and art activities that commemorate the dead in vibrant colors. Participants can learn about the traditions that enrich this cultural celebration.

The event begins at 5:00 p.m. with dancing by the Maru Montero Dance Company. The group will perform two sets of Latin American folkloric dances to get the crowd’s energy going with what the Washington Post called “scorching footwork . . . (and) contagious exuberance.”

Following the dance numbers, local Mexican folk band Los Gallos Negros will take the stage to deliver an hour of music honoring the spirit of Día de los Muertos. Their set will bring a little bit of the Tierra Azteca into the courtyard as they serenade the crowd with songs from across Mexico. The band will also perform popular tunes dedicated to the memories of Mexican stars Selena Quintanilla, Pedro Infante, and Chavela Vargas.

Whether you’re fresh off a fun weekend and don’t want the party to end or struggling to face a long work week, this Monday-evening activity will be the perfect way to cap off your weekend and start your week on a high note. Please join us for Día de los Muertos—a night for everyone, living or dead!

-Beth Evans, Youth & Family Programs Coordinator