Sunday, November 4, 2012

Milwaukee's Day of the Dead Celebration 2012

Last Friday, the annual Day of the Dead parade was held in Milwaukee. I shared some photos of the parade with you guys last year. This year, my mom and I again drove to Milwaukee's Walker's Point area to witness people pay tribute to their lost loved ones in a colorful, meaningful parade. This is one of my favorite parade photos. I love how the girls' happy painted faces are framed by the butterfly and flowers.


I didn't realize there was a skull peeking out at me here until I loaded these photos onto my computer.


The monarch butterflies have a significance to Day of the Dead, because their migration to Mexico coincides with the holiday. There is a belief that the butterflies represent the spirits of loved ones returning home.


These tall puppets are so cool! They were being operated by the people walking under them.


Marigolds are another symbol of the holiday. The scent of the marigold is said to attract the spirits.




There was a band marching with the parade:


This skeleton on stilts spotted me and waved down.



I was happy with how this photo came out. With the late afternoon light behind her, she seems almost ghostly.

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After the parade, we headed over to the Walker's Point Center for the Arts to see the annual Dia de los Muertos exhibit. This was the view through the gallery's front window.


How cute is she? This photo is my computer's wallpaper right now.


Some bright skulls sat in front of this fashionable skeleton. If you look closely, you'll see the names painted on the skull's foreheads. I learned while watching a sugar skull decorating tutorial, that the names of those being honored are often written on a skull's forehead.


I'd like to try making a skull floral arrangement like this some time. It's so bright and festive!


Here is that same altar (offerenda) from the inside of the gallery.


There are so many details to look at here. A painting of those being honored, religious art, flowers, Corona. I'm going to assume that the skeleton couple I liked so much on the other side of this are symbolic of the couple in this painting. There was a photo of a couple above those sculptures too.



Papel picado was hanging from the ceilings, walls, and offerendas. Papel picado is a popular decoration for Day of the Dead celebrations.


I'm used to seeing the skull pattern, but this bird was new to me.


A skeletal mermaid:


This photo makes me smile, because these two were clearly enjoying themselves. That skull had been carried throughout the parade.


A large Catrina banner hung on the wall. You can see the monarch butterflies here and calla lilies, another flower used for this holiday. You're probably already familiar with the flower's meaning of death and resurrection. 


Another bright, beautiful banner: Lupita y Pancho





This sculpture was made up of metal, beads, glass, rhinestones, ceramics, and probably a lot more. I love the little metal hand hanging by the skeleton's side.


The banner at the bottom of this is cut off somewhat. The comforting message read:

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."


This is another photo from the inside of the gallery. The windows were painted with images of skeletons playing instruments and dancing.


This was another surprise photo for me. I had no idea there was a little skeleton peeking at me from the bottom left of this photo.


The parade continued to move by as we watched from inside the gallery. I learned that a good way to get photos of people looking at you is to stand on the other side of a window.


There were a lot of children smiling and waving as they walked by, but those photos unfortunately turned out blurry. I guess they were moving a little too fast for my camera!

All of the parade participants were welcoming to us as viewers and we were greeted in a really friendly way at the gallery. It's so cool to have the opportunity to see this tradition and learn about it. This event is clearly something very personal to those involved, and it's nice that the Milwaukee community is welcomed to be a part of it!

I'm ending with some videos that show a little more about the symbols and traditions I mentioned above.


Papel Picado:

There's a seemingly endless amount of sugar skull makeup tutorials out there. Searching "sugar skull makeup" on YouTube will give you a lot of results. Here's one of my favorites:

If there are any Day of the Dead events going on where you guys are, I'd like to hear about them!


  1. Wow. I'm so jealous ... I would have loved this!

    Your pics are great. I particularly like the silver skull with the marigolds. Speaking of marigolds, the fields in that video are just gorgeous!

  2. Those are beautiful photos of what looks like a really nice celebration. Day of the Dead is very big here in Phoenix and, in fact, you see catrinas and calaveras all year long: a lot of murals in downtown Phoenix have that theme. Looks like you had a lot of fun. I have some Day of the Dead things on my current blogpost, too.

  3. This is so great! I love the Dia de los Muertos celebrations but unfortunately didn't attend any this year.

    Your pictures are fabulous...thanks so much for sharing!

    We threw a Dia de los Muertos party a few years back and it is one of my favorites we did. :D

  4. Wendy ~ Thank you! :) I really like that photo too. I'm tempted to paint one of my plastic skulls silver after seeing that. I agree about the fields of marigolds. I can't imagine how many flowers need to be harvested for this celebration! Hey, maybe if you check around you'll find some similar events in your area?

    Maccandace ~ Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad that you enjoyed this post. I just took a peek at the wonderful photos you have on your recent blog post. You got some really great shots! I plan to read more of your posts, because it looks like we have some common interests. :)

    Spooky Vegan ~ Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos. It's fun to be able to share them. I'd love to see some photos from your Dia de los Muertos party! Do you have them up on your blog?

  5. Great photos. I wish there was something like that to attend here.

  6. Wonderful photos! Next best thing to being there in person!
    Missed out on the few festivities here. :0(

  7. Gone Feral ~ Thanks! Are you sure there isn't something like this in your area? There might be an art gallery nearby that's having a Day of the Dead show. It's worth a check!

    Jeanne ~ Thank you! Well, I was hoping to give people that feeling. That's the fun thing about sharing photos with one another ~ It's like we all get to take mini trips from home. :) Sorry you missed out on what was going on in your area. Knowing that makes me extra glad I posted this! That way you can at least experience the holiday virtually this year. :)

  8. I actually did a double-take when I read "Corona" in the description of the altar, but sure enough, there they were, amongst the display. You've got to love a religious festival that joyously includes beer!

    All the pictures are beautiful, so it's hard to pick favourites, but I love the black and red skeleton on stilts, the mermaid and the Papel Picado.

    The velvet fuchsia marigolds in the video are gorgeous. It was interesting to learn the Papel Picado represents the fragility of life.

  9. I'm so glad you did another Day of the Dead post! I would love to be in Milwaukee this time of year (hopefully in the not too distant future) so we can go too. Have you ever tried to make the Dia de los Muertos bread? My brother,amazingly enough, actually made it one year for his 7th grade Spanish class. It turned out really great! :)

  10. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Haha! Yeah, you'd see beer included, as well as cigarettes, food, and basically whatever the person enjoyed while alive. That's part of what makes each of these tributes very personal. I think "joyous" is a good word. Obviously the people these displays are dedicated to are greatly missed, but there is an upbeat, happy atmosphere overall. I had a mixture of feelings while looking at what was there. Some of the objects (like little skeletons doing activities) made me smile, but the displayed photos of real people reminded me of the purpose.

    The skeleton on stilts was actually freaking me out a little. It's not like I'm scared of skeleton masks and painted faces, but to have one waving down at you from that height... and she was friendly too! I have to give that person points for being able to walk so steadily while wearing a mask and waving her gloved hands.

    I thought the mermaid was really creative. You can't see it too well in this photo, but she's carrying a large fork as a trident.

    It was hard for me to believe that the fuchsia flowers were marigolds, because of their color and texture. I've never seen any marigolds like those. I had assumed they were cock's combs flowers. I think they were called marigolds in the video, though. Isn't it something to watch that many flowers being harvested at once?

    I didn't know the symbolism of papel picado before watching that video. I've always liked the look of it. I tried making some of that once myself, as a project with kids. It was a little more time consuming than I thought it would be to cut all those details. I was working at the time doing art in the park with groups of kids, and a lot of them ran home to get their older relatives (mostly grandmothers) to help. All of these older people were Hispanic and clearly had an idea of how to do this, so I ended up learning more from them. We ended up hanging all the papel picado on strings between trees in the park. It was the best experience I had teaching with that company!

    Marisa ~ Hey! I think you would really enjoy the parade and exhibit. There are so many details to look at, and everyone involved is very friendly and welcoming. I haven't tried making the bread or even eating it, although I saw some of it on display. Did Mark make that bread in sort of a shape? I've seen some loaves that look like crosses on top of the regular bread loaf shape. Glad that turned out for him! Now I'm curious to see a recipe for it.

  11. What a colorful and heartwarming parade! I appreciate the respect and inspiration that the Day of the Dead offers to the living and the dead. Thank for this beautiful post!

  12. Pumpkin Cottage ~ Yes! It was heartwarming to see people out paying tribute and remembering their loved ones. The amount of effort that's put into this is very cool. Looking at the offerendas, you can see the memories people have left and sometimes it's like you're looking at their entire life in symbols and photographs. It's interesting to think about everything you've accomplished and the impact you made summed up on an altar. When you think of someone taking the time to assemble that kind of tribute, it's really very touching!

  13. Yep, it was in the shape of a skull. I'll try and find a recipe for you. Seeing as how he repeated Spanish I about 7 times, I'd say that bread was the only successful thing that ever came out of that class! ;)

  14. Here you go!!

  15. Beautiful! I love all the colors & the sentiment behind it all.

    The skull flower arrangement is too awesome!

  16. Marisa ~ Thanks for sending me that recipe page! Ah, I see one of those cross breads I mentioned earlier. Cool, I'll have to read more about this! Well, sometimes we don't learn what we expect to from school, but we take away something else. :) At least he's set with his Bread of the Dead skills!

    Lisa ~ Yeah! I enjoy all the bright colors and the positivity too. I might make a flower filled skull for a decoration next year. I don't think it would be too hard to remove the top of a plastic or paper mache skull and place some flowers inside.

  17. I remember your post from last years celebration and this years looks just as awesome! All the colour and images and the amount of people involved is almost too much to take in! It does look like so much fun, even just to stand and watch!

    My favourite bits have to be the really creepy skeleton on stilts.. if I saw that coming towards me I'd be going in the opposite direction! I have a fear of unnaturally elongated body parts and people on stilts and long fingers make my skin creep! The mermaid skeleton is just amazing, I wouldn't mind having one of those hanging in my house at Hallowe'en!

    I wonder who gets to keep all these awesome props after the celebrations have finished! ~♥~

  18. Bella Morte ~ Thanks! Yeah, after writing a few recurring posts, it's fun to look back on celebrations from years past. Blogs are a cool way of documenting things. As someone who loves bright colors and skulls, this event is a lot of coolness for me to take in at once. :)

    There was something about the skeleton on stilts that was different from the other parade participants. In part it was her height, but also her face was covered with a mask while the other faces were painted. So not being able to make eye contact with someone who is clearly looking at you is always freaky!

    Your fear of long fingers has me thinking of Pan's Labyrinth. Have you seen that movie?

    I agree about the mermaid skeleton. That was something really unique! I assume that the artists who create these pieces bring them home and place them out as personal offerendas.

    I'll looking forward to reading about your trip to Edinburgh. I'll have to check your blog and see what spookiness ensued. :)

  19. Oh, that's wonderful that the Hispanic grandmothers all joined in! It must have been special for them to see their traditions being carried on in this way. So was this a private company that you were working for or something the city of Milwaukee does?

  20. Little Gothic Horrors ~ It really was wonderful! It was always fun working with the kids, but having different generations there added a lot. I think it was special for them, and brought back memories. I'm grateful that I got to be a part of that.

    Here's the group I was working for:

    I was part of the truck program, which traveled to different Milwaukee parks. Everything you'd like to know and more is on that web site. :)

  21. Thanks for the link. That sounds like a fun job! Did you just do it over one summer?

  22. Little Gothic Horrors ~ It was fun! I have a lot of stories from that job. Yeah, it was just something I did for one summer. At least at that time, there weren't any year round opportunities I knew of. Obviously, it would be a little cold to be hanging around in the park during other seasons. :) So after that summer ended, I found something else. I would recommend that program for anyone who likes art, kids, and the outdoors!