South Holland Library hosts Día de los Muertos celebration

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South Holland Library
A large audience watches as the Lucero Family plays one of their many pieces at the South Holland Library's celebration of Dia de los Muertos. (Photo: Landon Ford)
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By Landon Ford

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (November 7, 2021) – Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, already passed by on November 1 and 2, but the festivities remained ongoing on November 6 at the South Holland Public Library. From 1 to 3 pm, people could attend an event held in the library’s Youth Department. The many activities at the event included sugar skull decorating, face painting, and a live mariachi band performance.

What is Día de los Muertos?

Day of the Dead (Día De Los Muertos) is a two-day holiday that reunites the living and dead, according to tradition. There are many ways to celebrate this holiday. A traditional way is using ofrendas (offerings). Families create ofrendas to honor their departed family members that have passed. These altars are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. These offerings encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departed souls hear prayers, smell food, and join in the celebrations.

Celebration at the SH Library

The main event of Day of the Dead at the South Holland Library was the live performance of the mariachi band, the Lucero Family. The band had four members: Juan Lucero, the leader and guitarist of the band; Sam Hyson, the violinist and accordionist; Raul Fernandez, percussionist, vihuela player, and cajon player; and finally, “Gio” Giovanni, the trumpet player. Together, they have been playing for over ten years. Juan and the gang were born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but are currently living in Chicago.

What inspired them to become a mariachi band was the music itself. “I just loved it so much that I had to play it, and the more and more I played, I wanted to play more.” said Lucero.

South Holland Library
From left: Sam Hyson on violin, Gio Giovanni on trumpet, Raul Fernandez on vihuela, and Juan Lucero on guitar. (Photo: Landon Ford)

The reason they are at the South Holland Library is to bring the musical aspect of Día de los Muertos front and center. “I hope for people that are familiar with the holiday that they can be reaffirmed by their culture, and those who haven’t to see something new that they will also enjoy,” Lucero said.

Families work hard decorating their sugar skulls. (Photo: Landon Ford)

Library support

The person who organized the event was Bryan Nunnally, the head of Youth Services of the South Holland Library. He has been working for the library for four years and wanted to hold the event to incorporate different programs, cultures, and traditions into the community.

“We hope that this program highlights the culture and the people who celebrate Day of the Dead,” he said. Though he doesn’t celebrate the holiday himself, Bryan understands the importance behind celebrating and remembering the dead.

Alyna Karczmar also works in the Youth Services department and hoped that the event would help invite more visitors to the library and enrich the local community.

“We want to help embrace more cultures by letting people know we just don’t celebrate commercial holidays,” she said, adding that she deeply enjoys the artistic aspects of the holiday.

Storytelling and preserving culture

After the concert, there was a live bilingual story time reading for the children, led by Rosie Camargo. She read two stories both in English and Spanish: Clatter Bash by Richard Keep, and Oh, Divine Catrina! by Aracely De Alvarado. At the end of the reading she led a song and dance called Skeletitos: Make Every Moment Count. Camargo is a nine-year children’s librarian at SHPL. She worked to create Spanish reading videos during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was approached by Nunnally for the Day of the Dead event for a live storytime. Camargo is of Colombian descent, but she celebrates Día de los Muertos with her family by ofrenda offerings.

Rosie Camargo reads Oh, Divine Catrina! By Aracely De Alvarado to families after the concert. (Photo: Landon Ford)

“It is a really important aspect of our culture — of all Spanish speaking cultures. It is really important to remember our ancestors, and where they came from so we can respect and honor them,” Camargo said. She hopes that the library event can support the Spanish speaking community of South Holland, and help them feel represented, while the non-Spanish speaking attendees can feel educated and inspired.

The South Holland Library’s director, Christyn Rayford, also attended the event. She says the library because they want to value culture and traditions: “We wanted to show the village that we care about the tradition, and educate those in the village about the Hispanic population and their culture.”

For Rayford, Day of the Dead is an opportunity to learn and provide something new. She wants to bring back the community to the library, and wants the community to value different faiths, heritages, and cultures.

The South Holland Public Library is located at 16250 Wausau Avenue.

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