Day of the Dead: Celebrate life and the lives of those who have died

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 14, 2019

 The Utica Public Library will host a presentation on the Day of the Dead  called “Siete16 Guevara” at 6:30 p.m.  Oct. 23. The Day of the Dead is a  celebration of life and the lives  of departed loved ones. This is one  of many interpretations of  Posada’s La Catrina (Lady Death).

The Utica Public Library will host a presentation on the Day of the Dead called “Siete16 Guevara” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life and the lives of departed loved ones. This is one of many interpretations of Posada’s La Catrina (Lady Death).

Photo provided by Gil Guevara

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UTICA  — Three days out of the year, it is a Mexican tradition to celebrate life and those who have died.

The Mexican tradition called the Day of the Dead is celebrated Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

You might think it’s related to Halloween or a Halloween celebration in Mexico, but it’s actually not.

Want to learn about what is done each day, how it’s celebrated and what it really means?

The Utica Public Library will host a presentation on the Day of the Dead, or “Día de los Muertos,” called “Siete16 Guevara” Oct. 23. The presentation will be given by Gil Guevara Jr. at 6:30 p.m.

“Día de los Muertos is not the Mexican Halloween — despite those participating during the holiday dressing up as skeletons, angels and devils. It is mainly a holiday to celebrate life and to remember our ancestors, and those that have died. It is not a day to mourn or be sad because those we love are no longer with us, but to remember them through delightful and funny memories/stories,” Guevara said in an email.

The day is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and is a time to remember the deceased and welcome spirits home from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died is done.

There will be a brief presentation that explains the main concept of the holiday, facts and fictions related to Día de los Muertos, and several of the key concepts and items associated with the holiday. There will then be time for questions and answers.

Guevara is a local poet and author from Sterling Heights who was raised in Saginaw. Guevara has self-published many books and works with many students in the area to publish collections of original poetry. Guevara founded and started a nonprofit organization, Artistas Latinx en Accíon Siempre, to invite the Latinx/Hispanic communities in Saginaw County to join in evenings of open mic performances.

He has made presentations at elementary schools in Utica Community Schools and Warren Consolidated Schools, at Oakland University and Macomb Community College, and for the general public.

Guevara is working on a second book of original poetry written by sixth grade students in Utica Community Schools, and a children’s book based on the Day of the Dead. He is hoping to have both published before the end of 2019.

Guevara said there are many ways to learn about the Day of the Dead.

“Anyone can learn more about Day of the Dead through several books that are available at your local library, several videos on YouTube, or through several websites. The best place to find out (about) Día de los Muertos is to actually take part (in) the holiday — especially in one of the nearby Mexican communities that celebrate the holiday as we do Halloween.”

Utica Public Library Director Marsha Doege said the library is excited to offer this program to the community and that Guevara has attended many of the library’s popular poetry readings.

“The Utica library is very excited to bring this educational presentation of Day of the Dead to our community. Gil Guevara Jr. is a local poet and writer whose acquaintance we made when he attended the library’s poetry readings. This is a wonderful way to share the traditions and customs of Hispanic/Mexican Americans. A festival to honor our departed loved ones, Day of the Dead is rich in tradition and joy,” said Doege in an email.

No registration is required, and the program is free and family-friendly.

Guevara said he is looking forward to sharing the true meaning of the Mexican holiday and is thankful for those who are interested in learning about the tradition.

“I am looking forward to doing this presentation and (sharing) a little information about the Hispanic/Latinx experience: our heritage, history, culture and even about our family life.

“I am always willing to educate and entertain my audience. Also, I want to thank my family, my organization and the audience/attendees for being present at these events — it would not be possible without any of you. Mil gracías — many thanks,” said Guevara.

The presentation will last about an hour. The Utica Public Library is located at 7530 Auburn Road. For more information, call the library at (586) 731-4141.

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