Day of the Dead/ Dia de los Muertos

Workshops, Panel Discussion and Performances
November 2—November 5, 2017.
Easthampton/Holyoke MA

A series of events rooted in a Mexican tradition that celebrates life, wrestles with death, and honors the souls of the departed. Easthampton, in partnership with Holyoke, hosts workshops, a film screening, a panel discussion and performances.

In Holyoke, on Thursday, November 2nd, and in Easthampton on Saturday November 4th, the community is invited to create something in honor of a loved one. Materials are provided to decorate a sugar skull, create a puppet for a parade, or memorialize a loved one in an open studios setting.

On Sunday, November 5th, dozens of people will gather at the foot of the Brookside cemetery in Easthampton to participate in an interactive art installation, witness traditional live music, and experience dance, poetry and puppetry performances.

Guests are welcome to attend with creative face painting and bring an image or meaningful object to place on the community Ofrenda (a traditional altar), at the end of the procession.

Schedule of Events:


THURSDAY, November 2
4-6pm  Open Studios Crafts Workshop
Wistariahurst Museum, 238 Cabot St. Holyoke MA

Join members of the Gándara Youth Group to create special objects for Day of the Dead. Build a puppet or decorate a portrait of a loved one. With these objects, participants are invited to be part of a procession on Sunday, November 5th, at the Brookside cemetery in Easthampton.

SATURDAY, November 4
12-3pm  Art Making Workshop
Eastworks, 116 Pleasant St. Easthampton MA

Drop in to Studio 028 (basement of Eastworks), make a puppet, embellish a portrait, or create something meaningful to honor someone.

5-6:30pm  Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Easthampton Media, Eastworks

Day of the Dead in Context; Roots, Ritual and Reinvention

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that goes back to prehispanic cultures. It has evolved through time and place to reflect the particular needs of the people who enact it. We will show Noche de Altares, a 30 min film by local filmmaker Jim Ault  and a excerpt of Many Bones, One Heart, about Day of the Dead in Tucson, Arizona. The vision is to stimulate a discussion of the role of tradition and ritual in a contemporary context. Panelists include: Jim Ault, sociologist and filmmaker, Michelle Marroquín, dancer/choreographer, Iohann Rashi Vega, Media Producer & Educator, and longtime activist Sylvia Galván.


SUNDAY, November 5

10-12pm Love Notes to the Dead
Studio 048 (basement) of Eastworks

Facilitated by Carolyn Cushing, this gathering is a supportive space to hold both our love and grief as we write love notes to someone who has passed away. Prompts/inspirations for getting started and materials are provided. No need to be a writer, follow a particular tradition, or hold a certain belief about the afterlife. Please bring a picture of your beloved dead who you wish to write to. Preregistration for this workshop encouraged.  To reserve a spot email:

4-5pm Garden of Souls Interactive Art Installation
Park at 50 Payson Ave & gather at base of Brookside Cemetery

Embellished portraits and meaningful objects will be placed around the two large pine trees at the foot of the cemetery.  Love Notes to the Dead will be read, as participants recite the names of loved ones. Music, words and remembrances will be shared.

5-6pm Performances by the Pond
Park at 50 Payson Ave & gather at base of Brookside Cemetery

You will be received by narrator Iohann Rashi Vega and the live music of Pan Morigan and Tony Silva, as they set the stage for a series of encounters with dancers, poets and puppets.

6-7pm Explanation of Traditional Ofrenda
La Casita Azteca, 58 Cottage St. Easthampton

Sylvia Galván, respected elder of the Mexican community, will lead us through the placement of symbolic offerings on a traditional altar for the Dead. This community Ofrenda has its historical roots in prehispanic America. Music by Tony Silva and Pan Morigan will continue at La Casita.



Michelle Marroquin, founding organizer of Easthampton’s Day of the Dead, has partnered with Easthampton City Arts to reach beyond the Easthampton community and involve a wider range of individuals and organizations. Michelle is a performance artist with training in ballet, modern dance, Mexican folk dance, and Odissi Classical Indian dance. Raised in Mexico City but based in New York City for many years, she relocated to the Pioneer Valley in 2003. Performing with her at this year’s Day of the Dead are dancers Katelyn Cramer & Marya Moylan

Easthampton City Arts is an organization that creates positive, innovative, and accessible arts programming and cultural events to generate and increase opportunities for artists and the local economy. Easthampton City Arts is located in Easthampton, MA.

Tony Silva is an Easthampton-based composer and musician who performs in restaurants, galleries, traditional theaters and festivals. He is also a skilled artist and the builder/maker of the large papier mâché puppet La Catrina.

Singer/musician Pan Morigan has been involved with Day of the Dead since its inception. She is an award-winning vocalist, composer, poet, producer, and the music director of Chrysalis Theatre, a locally based cross cultural performance ensemble.

Iohann Rashi Vega is a Media Producer & Educator at Gándara Youth Development Center in Holyoke, whose teens will be involved in crafting puppets for the procession. Iohann is the creator of Radioplasma, an independent community media outlet featuring a podcast, oral stories, music, news, and much more. Iohann is providing in-kind translations of all promotional materials and will lead the audience through the performance on Sunday, November 5th.

Easthampton Media is providing access to their brand-new 50-seat theater, use of their equipment, staffing, and promotion for the film screening & panel discussion on Saturday, November 4th.

Eastworks is celebrating its 20th year anniversary at their Open Studios Event this weekend, and offering studio space for the Crafts Workshops on Saturday, November 4th.

Wistariahurst Museum, a historic site in Holyoke, is hosting an exhibit about Day of the Dead, providing educational materials, a space for a community Ofrenda, and staffing for the Youth Crafts Workshop.

Caravan Puppets, comprised of Jonathan Keezing and Karen Schumer, will be part of Performances by the Pond on Sunday, November 5th.

Sylvia Galván and members of La Casita Azteca have been involved as creative collaborators and sponsors for many years. La Casita Azteca hosts the installation the Ofrenda, and will offer traditional hot ponche during the music performance in their garden.

Click below to see Easthampton Media‘s 10 minute documentary of the 2014 event:


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