The dead live on at Dia de Muertos festival in Seattle

  • By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
  • Friday, October 30, 2015 5:02pm
  • Life

There are skeletons, sweets and costumes.

But this is not Halloween.

It’s Día de Muertos. Day of the Dead.

The ancient Mexican celebration honors deceased loved ones.

“In Mexico, we believe you never die as long as someone remembers you,” said Jacque Larrainzar, spokeswoman for the Día de Muertos festival today and Sunday at the Seattle Center.

“As long as someone puts out an altar and calls you back, you are always present. And you are always part of the family.”

This weekend’s free event includes a community altar where people can leave items for dead loved ones. In Mexico, families go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and decorate graves.

This is a fun, happy festival.

“It’s grief, but in a good way,” Larrainzar said.

The event is for people of all ages and cultures.

“We have people who are not Mexicans who come to the festival,” Larrainzar said.

“It is really a celebration of life. Honor people from your family, even a pet you loved a lot. It’s a time to reunite with their spirits. You join them and sing and dance.”

Día de Muertos is often confused with Halloween, but it’s quite different.

“Sometimes here Halloween is all about the spooks. Our festival is almost the opposite. It’s about not being afraid of the spirits because they are actually here to protect you,” Larrainzar said.

At the festival, kids can decorate sugar skulls, an icon of the holiday with big smiles, colorful icing and glittery adornments.

“Death isn’t something to be afraid of because you eat it and it’s sweet,” Larrainzar said.

Highlights include a colorful cemetery, clay mask workshop, food, music, dance and poetry.

“There will be a big celebration for Latino poets,” Larrainzar said. “A lot of community people who had never written a poem participated. There will be a toast to community poets.”

The event continues to grow every year.

“We started 16 years ago with a small group of people, the usual five people who want to do something,” Larrainzar said. “The first year we might have had another five people come. By the third year, we didn’t fit in the place. Seattle Center offered us to come here. Last year, we got about 7,000 people each day. We work really hard so the festival is free for anybody who wants to come.”

Andrea Brown at 425-339-3443; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

If you go

Día de Muertos: A Mexican Celebration to Remember Our Departed, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, Armory Main Floor, Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1.

More at

The Tacoma Art Museum will have a Día de Muertos festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 1. Family-friendly activities, events, outdoor chalk memorial, costume competition, performances and more, and the galleries are open. More at:

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