By Lily Nussbaum | Staff Writer
From Sept. 18 to Nov. 4, the Mayborn Museum Complex invites the Baylor and greater Waco communities to honor and remember their loved ones through a community ofrenda in celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
The traditional Mexican holiday is a two-day celebration from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2. It focuses heavily on honoring and connecting with the lives of the deceased. A vital tradition of the holiday is an ofrenda — an altar filled with offerings to those who have died.
“Ofrendas are here to celebrate and remind us of everything our past loved ones have done,” Richland senior Jessica Sanchez said. “It is a way to invite them back into our home.”
It is the Mayborn Museum’s third year of hosting a community ofrenda, and public engagement coordinator Amber Hansen said it is a vital aspect of the Mayborn Museum’s Hispanic heritage celebration.
“It is such a great way we can co-design with the community and celebrate Hispanic heritage,” Hansen said. “We don’t want to just be a place that is full of glass cases.”
Lining the hall as people make their way to the ofrenda is the bright and colorful work of Inez Alvidres. Hansen said the two combined exhibitions — the paintings and the ofrenda — create a beautiful and celebratory ambiance in the space.
Sanchez said the first time she got a taste of celebrating the holiday at Baylor was when the Hispanic Student Association created an ofrenda last year. By setting up flowers, food items and pictures of her deceased family members, she said she felt a greater connection to her heritage.
“We take some time apart to remember that there is a connection between the spiritual world and our world,” Sanchez said. “Even though our loved ones might not be around us in the physical world, their spirit, their love, their energy lives through us.”
While she did not attend the Mayborn Museum’s ofrenda last year, Sanchez said she is interested in participating this time. As a Hispanic student, she said she tries to find different spots around Waco that remind her of home, and this might be one to add to her list.
“It is such a special thing,” Sanchez said. “I would want to stop by and immerse myself in it and kind of forget just a little bit about not being with my family.”
Both exhibitions are currently open to the public and offer an opportunity to participate and learn.
“Our mission here at the Mayborn Museum is to engage our community and inspire lifelong learning,” Hansen said. “We absolutely encourage anyone and everyone to come and experience the ofrenda and to come leave offerings if they’d like.”
Sanchez said a certain joy comes from teaching others about her culture. When speaking to others about holidays like Dia de los Muertos and traditions like the ofrenda, she said she and others can help people understand the nuances and importance of her culture.
“It can be very scary to step out of your comfort zone, but it can also be very, very rewarding,” Sanchez said. “If you’re even in the slightest just interested or curious about what it is, just go for it and stop by.”