Two styles merged into making one altar which was to be used for the second Dia De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Sunset Park this year on Friday, November 9.
Ben Rojas and Adrian Roman, the artists, planned the art piece for a month and a half before they started setting it up. It took them a week, but by the time the exhibit was completed, Roman, who specializes in charcoal and graphite techniques, said that the monument, which also included a chalkboard for visitors to leave messages, was a good place for “People to come in and bring photos and flowers for their passed loved ones.”
He also added that, “[now] is a good time to start merging cultures and educate everyone on tradition.”
El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that brings family and friends together to remember their loved ones who have died; however, with time, the tradition has evolved and it’s currently celebrated in “different ways in all of Latin America,” noted Roman.
“This is not a spooky thing,” remarked David Galarza, a parishioner of Trinity Lutheran Church, which was hosting the event there, 411 46th Street. “They’re family, and they’re with us.”
Pastor Samuel Cruz, the spiritual leader at Trinity Lutheran, was among those present. “We’re thinking of them, of those of have gone before us,” he commented about paying respects to the deceased.
Skulls, flowers, candles, candy, fruits and vegetables, and “momentos,” meaning personal items such as lighters, hats and books that are identified with the departed, were brought in honor of those who once lived and filled the site.
Genaro Hernandez, of Puerto Rican descent, attended in memory of his sister, Elsie, who died in 1998. He had never been to a Day of the Dead celebration. Years later, after his sister’s death, he decided to stop by, saying “It’s nice to have this and be able to remember [her] in a gathering. It feels better to remember the good times and the influence that she had on my family.” Hernandez and his girlfriend brought in two photo frames with Elsie’s pictures.
“It’s good to know the culture,” added Mayra El Cheilchalill, a neighbor. “Every country has their way of celebrating.”
The exhibit included also a performance by ASE MUSIC group.