Event organizers are working to have 1,000 skulls ready for decorations.

Featuring art, music, dancing, storytelling and more, the Dia de los Muertos event October 29 at the San Jose Museum of Art, is a free, community-wide celebration of Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday to honor and remember friends and loved ones who have died.

Through songs, stories, altars and crafts, such as sugar skull and paper flower making, the event aims to entertain, and also inform museum-goers about this vibrant holiday. It also provides an opportunity to honor the cultural richness of our local community.

“It’s a day to celebrate our diverse community in San Jose,” said Jeff Bordona, the museum’s Manager of Youth and Family Services. “The idea is that we bring in the various cultures in the Bay Area.”

“We’re a contemporary museum, so we try to put a twist on some of the traditional things,” he said. “Last year we made Shrinky Dinks; this year we’re having scratch art. We’re seeing more and more that the traditional altar is taking on a contemporary spin and including offerings to something other than a person. One year we had an altar that was Death of the American Dream.”

Celebrated by people of all ages, in countries around the world including Brazil, Haiti, Guatemala, Bolivia, Portugal and many more, Dia de los Muertos has international and inter-generational appeal. Along with Mariachi San Jose, Capoeira Irmandade will be demonstrating the Brazilian art form.

“We want to show that this day is celebrated around the world,” says Bordona. “Bringing in Brazil is a nice message to let folks know how widespread the celebration is.”

The most popular activity of the museum’s Dia de los Muertos event is the making of the calaveras de azucar, or sugar skulls. A Day of the Dead tradition that stretches back to the 18th century, the skulls are colorfully decorated to represent departed souls. Last year, museum patrons decorated approximately 500 sugar skulls. This year, the museum is working to have 1,000 skulls ready for decorations.

“All the projects that we have are really geared toward anyone who would like to participate,” Bordona said. “We want the kids, we want the parents, we want grandma and grandpa—a six year old sitting next to an 80 year old, working on sugar skulls.”