Day of the Dead

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The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is an annual observance, originated in Mexico, coinciding with the Catholic "All Saint's Day" (November 1) and "All Soul's Day" (November 2). The memory of lost loved ones is honored by the display of "ofrendas" (offerings) which incorporate the deceased favorite foods and drinks as well as decorated sugar skulls, fresh marigolds, and other gifts and remembrances. Children who have died are honored on el Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents" on November 1), with adults honored the next day. Some traditions associated with the holiday originated with the native Méxica before European contact.

In Birmingham, the Day of the Dead has been celebrated since 2003 with a large community art festival hosted by Bare Hands Gallery. Participants are invited to create ofrendas in the gallery, its courtyard space, and an adjacent alley and vacant lot. The outdoor spaces, draped with large canvases painted in Day of the Dead themes by Arthur Price, are also used for musical and dance performances and for readings and rituals honoring the dead. Because the local celebration is centered on the arts community, the life and work of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and José Guadalupe Posada are highlighted.

The local event was begun when artist Tracy Martin created an altar for her late father, photographer Spider Martin (El Hombre Araña / The Spider-Man) in the gallery's courtyard. The celebration has since grown into one of the city's best-loved art events. After the gallery closed in December 2010 the festival was continued under a separate board, incorporated as Day of the Dead Alabama. Jarvis retired as executive director in May 2015.


  • "Birmingham art gallery hosts annual Day of the Dead Festival" (November 1, 2010) The Birmingham News
  • Bare Hands (November 15, 2010) press release announcing gallery closing

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