Chehalem Cultural Center Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Reported by Alicia Pacheco

On November 2, the Chehelam Cultural Center (CCC) hosted a celebration of Dia de los Muertos. This was the end of a series of events throughout October celebrating Latin American Heritage Month.

The Dia de los Muertos celebrations began on Oct. 31 as CCC invited locals to bring items to add to the ofrenda (altar) for deceased family members.  CCC provided many items to add to the ofrenda in addition to what was brought by community members, including candles, photos, and food.

After the ofrendas were put together, the final event took place on Nov. 2 and included the performance of Huitzilopochtli Aztec dancers, crafts for children, and refreshments.

The free event attracted a large crowd and the ballroom at CCC where it took place was easily packed. The craft tables were surrounded with children getting their faces painted, decorating sugar skulls, and making marigolds out of tissue paper, a traditional Dia de los Muertos decoration.

Sweet tamales and conchas, a Mexican sweet bread, were served along with champurrado, horchata, and agua de jimaica.

The event also included a reception for artist Hampton Rodriguez. Rodriguez is originally from the Dominican Republic but since moving to Oregon in 2002, the focus of his work shifted to the culture of Portland’s diverse neighborhoods. His art will remain on display in the Founders Lobby through Nov. 30.

Students from the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) club from Newberg High School made up most of the event’s volunteers. Fatima Escamilla, a student volunteer, said, “It makes me happy to see other people getting to know what Dia de los Muertos means. People question me about what today is and I see people getting involved with the culture.”

On an ofrenda in the corner of the ballroom, CCC placed a stack of fact sheets for those unfamiliar with the holiday and curious about its purpose. The fact sheet, written by Maria Anderson, explains that the holiday “celebrates life, not death.”

“Dia de los Muertos is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones,” Anderson wrote.

Upcoming events at CCC include Writers Open Mic Night on Thursday and The Barber of Seville presented by Portland Opera on Saturday.

Jessica DaughertyComment