Festival de las Calaveras Celebrates Life, Death, and Community

In the shadow of Halloween, and often wrongly conflated with the spooky celebration, Dia de los Muertos has finally been given a different spotlight on a much larger stage. This year the State Capitol hosted a community altar for the first time, and the Twin Cities has seen different events pop up honoring the holiday. 

One celebration dates back a decade—Tlalnepantla Arts’s week-long Latinx music and arts festivities: Festival de las Calaveras. The festival was born from their community engagement component, the Zenteotl Project, which fused art, Mexica (Aztec) dance, and urban agriculture. To bring attention to their organic blue corn community gardening, the first Festival de las Calaveras had the community make a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda (offering) on the same plot where the corn was planted and harvested. Over the years, the festival has grown to also address limited resources and support for Latinx art, and has gathered over 700 artists and thousands of Twin Cities community members to celebrate the joyous indigenous Mexican tradition of honoring the memory of ancestors and departed loved ones.

Taking over Squirrel Haus Arts in Minneapolis this year, the festival kicks off on November 5 with a Dia de los Muertos Concert MC’s by artist Xochi de la Luna. They invite local Aztec dance group Mexica Yolotl, Latinx spoken word collective Palabristas, and a star lineup of local and national Latinx artists and musicians including Lady Midnight, Caballo Cosmico, NEMEGATA and DJ Superbrush427. 

This year, Tlalnepantla Arts is collaborating with the start-up arts org (Neo) Muralismos de Mexico-MN to create a temporary art exhibition in Squirrel Haus that explores contemporary and traditional elements of Dia de los Muertos and social justice issues that affect the Latinx community. The exhibit will run for a week from November 6-13. The art exhibit and festival ends with a closing celebration with craft vendors, art and hands-on activities like papel picado, flores de papel and calaveritas de papel with Alondra Garza, Tatiana Jara and Cadex Herrera. To make it a party, listen to live music from Tufawon, Rocksteady Breakfast, A Flor de Piel, DJ QueenDuin, Palabristas Spoken Word Collective, and Chinelos de San Pablo Apostol. 

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