Centro Hispano de East Tennessee’s mission is to connect, integrate, and empower the Latino community through education and engagement, information and referral services, and community strengthening initiatives. Centro’s Youth and Family Engagement department oversees after school enrichment programs at five sites and serves approximately 375 youth and family members each year.
In Spring of 2022, we partnered with the Cattywampus Puppet Council at each of our afterschool sites to create paper mâché alebrijes to celebrate Mexican cultural heritage. The children worked with artists from Cattywampus over eight weeks to design, build, and paint large colorful puppets which were then featured in a community parade during the Big Ears Music Festival in March 2022.
This fun, messy, collaborative process was a great way for our kids to engage with hands-on learning about an important Latin American cultural art form.
What inspired you all to create this installation?
Our inspiration for this installation was Day of the Dead’s world-famous iconography and its unique perspective on life and death. Even though its traditions include all kinds of references to the dead, the colors and designs are extremely lively, emphasizing the idea that life is made most vibrant by the knowledge that death is a part of it. Día de los Muertos is not nearly as popular in the rest of Latin America as it is in Mexico, but images such as calaveras and marigolds are instantly recognizable to people from many different cultures.
What do you want people to know or learn about Día from your installation?
Día de los Muertos dates back thousands of years, all the way to the Toltecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Maya, and Aztecs. Día de los Muertos is primarily celebrated in Mexico or by people of Mexican descent. It is a tradition that emphasizes death as a key part of the life cycle, and the day itself is meant to be an opportunity for the living and the dead to “meet” again. To many Mexican families, it is a very special day of the year when those who have passed are honored, remembered, and celebrated.
Please click on the photos in the gallery below to learn more about each image!
Centro Hispano de East Tennessee Afterschool Program Group Members