By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer
Starting Thursday through November 8, the Mayborn Museum is partnering with the CenTex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to show the ongoing “Ofrenda Display: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage,” exhibit, and it will be out for the Baylor and Waco community to see.
The plans for the display are to honor community members’ family members in theme of the the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, as the traditional celebration this year begins on Saturday, October 31 and ends on Monday, November 2.
Eric Linares, local Waco businessman, artist and Baylor graduate, is heading up this project. His proposal was accepted by the Mayborn Museum over other Waco artists and community members.
Last year, Linares organized the Día de los Muertos Festival in South Waco where the “community ofrenda,” or “offering,” was the centerpiece of the event. This year, Linares and his team at the Mayborn are repurposing this ofrenda to allow for members of both the Waco and Baylor community to pay their respects to their loved ones by bringing mementos as a token of their remembrance.
“The purpose behind the community ofrenda is essentially to create a space where everyone of all backgrounds, of all families, can be a part of this celebration, be a part of this culture by providing their offerings like their photos of their loved ones,” Linares said. “So we provide a space where we all honor and share that love for our ancestors in the tradition.”
Linares said that his goal was to tie in all aspects of the Mexican heritage and tradition into his ofrenda. For example, the lightweight, foam-built display’s shape resembles that of an Aztec pyramid.
Additionally, Cindee Millard, public engagement manager at the Mayborn who works closely with the museum’s special exhibits, said that on Oct. 29, Diana Lopez, author of the movie-adapted version of the children’s book, “Coco,” will be joining the Mayborn goers for a live Zoom meeting, discussing the Mexican tradition and her book. Additionally, Linares has curated a short video introducing the concept of the holiday and its meaning to the Zoom-goers.
“Diana is going to give kind of a presentation of writing the book, working on the film … [and] taking information from that and her experiences, and they’ll do a bit of a Q&A,” Millard said. “There’s no cost to it.”
Linares said that he loved “Coco” and had a personal tie to the film, as his grandmother’s nickname was “Coco.” He also said he was thrilled when it was released because of the genuine effort it completed on the behalf of the Hispanic heritage.
“When that movie really came out and it was just like the first real representation of our culture. People who lived over here with Hispanic culture is very interesting because our second generation of Hispanics, they had to assimilate into this culture,” Linares said. “So they lost a lot of that connection even to the language and so it’s a very tragic thing to see. But when when this movie came out… they really showcased, reinvigorated this want to go back and re-experience and understand your traditions.”
Just like the Diana Lopez event, the entire ofrenda display also does not cost visitors any entrance fee to the Mayborn. Millard said this choice was purposeful so that all members of the community could have the opportunity to remember their loved ones at the memorial.
Millard said that she thinks because of the nature of the long, extended time period of the display that COVID-19 should not be too much of an issue. Those entering the museum are required to socially distance from those not in their party and to wear a mask. She additionally said that Baylor students are always allowed into the museum cost-free regardless of what’s on display.
Overall, Millard said her goal overall for this special exhibit is to let the community know that all heritages can be experienced by all and participating in one doesn’t have to be limited to the community that historically celebrates it.
“I want people to walk away and for [everybody] to know that this is their museum. And I’m not just talking about Hispanic culture but I want people to know that anyone that wants to use them… we’re trying to reflect the community around us,” she said. “The ofrenda idea is so family-oriented, paying respects to loved ones that have passed on. I mean, it’s emotional to anybody.”
Linares said that currently, the ofrenda display has 10,000 interested on the Facebook page, and they plan for lots of people to come in and out of the museum. He said that he too believes that members of both the Waco community, and Baylor students especially, should attend this event.
“University life is this opportunity to experience people and cultures that you’ve never been around. It’s this amalgamation of a lot of different backgrounds,” Linares said. “It’s paramount for an individual to get that experience because that’s how we’re able to go into the real world and have all these knowledges and backgrounds of people. And then it just makes our interactions with other humans so much better because we understand that everyone has their background, everyone has their culture and you respect it and we cherish it and we share it.”