Local nonprofits collaborate for Día de los Muertos Community Altar | SteamboatToday.com

Local nonprofits collaborate for Día de los Muertos Community Altar

Cecilia Escobar-Ceballos lights a candle and places it on an ofrenda, or altar, that has been installed at the Bud Werner Memorial Library to honor Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The traditional Mexican holiday is a celebration of life and a way for loved ones to reunite with the deceased.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Five local nonprofits have joined forces to create a traditional Día de los Muertos altar at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs this week. Located in Library Hall, community members are invited to visit the altar to light a candle or leave a memory of a departed loved one.

Día de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — is a Mexican holiday celebrated around the world to honor those who have died. Families typically create offerings to honor their departed family members, and altars are traditionally decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos and tokens of the departed and the favorite foods and drinks of the ones being honored.

It was the Health Partnership Serving Northwest Colorado who organized this particular celebration in collaboration with Integrated Community, LatinX Alliance, Steamboat Creates and the library.

Originally from Mexico, Cecilia Escobar-Ceballos, health equity coordinator for the Health Partnership, grew up celebrating Día de los Muertos. She remembers all homes, stores and businesses creating altars to honor lost loved ones.

“I think that in the years we’ve been living through a pandemic, many of us have lost a loved one, and we are very sensitive to that,” she said. “Everybody grieves, and everyone has someone they have lost. This experience moves us from heartache to celebration.”

Together with Meghan Barrett, who is the community impact manager for the Health Partnership, the two women set about organizing this event for the community with the goal of supporting community partners and furthering relationships with organizations that prioritize diversity.

Each collaborating organization joined in with the same goal — to promote culture and diversity within the community.

“More immigrants continue to move to our community every year to help sustain the workforce,” said Nelly Navarro, executive director of Integrated Community. “Our goal is to keep these traditions alive, pass those traditions to younger generation and educate our local community members at the same time.”

The LatinX Alliance, which was formed last year, is new to the celebration.

“We want to bring awareness of this beautiful tradition to our community and remember loved ones who have passed with a festive celebration,” said Irene Avitia, one of the nonprofit’s founders. “We hope it will be the first of many to come for us.”

Similarly, Steamboat Creates has not participated in a community altar before, but program director Sylvie Piquet said the organization is “thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

The organization will be providing the art supplies for the altar so that visitors can twist tissue paper into a flower or leave a note on decorated paper for a loved one.

“Sometimes, it is difficult to put messages into words, and art is a fantastic alternative way to communicate,” Piquet said.

What: Día de los Muertos community altar

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1, to Friday, Nov. 5, with extended viewing hours from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5

Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

Community members are invited to visit the altar and leave a token or a photo of a loved one or to write a note or make a paper flower, any time from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday.

During First Friday Artwalk this week, the altar will be open for viewing after library hours and will remain illuminated with candles until 8 p.m.

“We want to try to represent a very traditional altar but also make the community feel welcome and included,” Escobar-Ceballos said.

While Adult Programs Director Jennie Lay said the library has hosted Día de los Muertos altars in the past — and some festive celebrations surrounding them — this is the first time that so many local nonprofits have joined forces to create a celebration for the community.

“The library is all about education and enjoyment for everyone,” Lay said. “We hope this gathering helps boost connection with our Latinx community, along with a chance to honor so many beautiful family members and friends who’ve been lost in the recent past. Let’s honor one another here on earthly Yampa Valley ground and the souls who’ve moved on.”

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