Pilsen Dia de Muertos exhibit remembers COVID-19 victims, grieving families

CHICAGO (WLS) — COVID-19 victims will be remembered this year as part of the National Museum of Mexican Art’s Day of the Dead exhibit, which opens to the public this weekend.

A special ofrenda, and the first room visitors see, will feature pictures of 200 COVID victims. Their loved ones submitted the photos online to the museum over the past weeks.

“I think the Day of the Dead really is a wonderful way to deal with the pandemic and to deal with the loss we have had over the last two years,” said Cesáreo Moreno, chief curator at National Museum of Mexican Art.

“Mourning is telling people’s stories,” Moreno said. “Keeping them alive, keeping them part of the family – and letting go of them little by little each time we say their name.”

Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember will run from Friday, September 10, 2021 to Sunday, December 12, 2021.

Moreno and his staff were putting the finishing touches on the exhibit this week. When completed, you will see pictures of people who died of COVID.

“It’s tough, it’s tough,” Moreno said. “Seeing those 200 faces, 200 plus faces was really intense, like no other year.”

The exhibit also features Adam Toledo who was shot by a Chicago police officer; Vanessa Guillen, a murdered Fort Hood soldier; and Ofelia Lara – a Chicagoan who died of natural causes.

Lara’s family couldn’t grieve together, so her daughter Maria Herrera made a quilt with Carina Yepez. Their creation is part of the exhibit, and Yepez said she hopes it comforts all who see it.
“I want them to feel a big hug, a big hug that our ancestors are with us,” Yepez said. “The legacy that have passed on to us continues through the stories we share.”

On October 30, the Museum will host Día de los Muertos Xicágo, a festival that is open to the public. The public is invited to sign-up online to build an ofrenda at the event, which takes place at Harrison Park behind the museum.

Jorge Valdivia plans to build an ofrenda to remember his brother, Mauricio, who died of COVID-19. He wants people to understand the virus is real, and people should follow public health protocols.

“It is something real and I don’t want my brothers death to be in vain,” Valdivia said.

He also wants his altar to reflect his brother’s personality. Mauricio Valdivia was married and has two sons, the oldest is a teenager.

“My brother was the life of the party,” Jorge Valdivia said. “He lived every moment as if it were his last. He instilled in every single one of us, this sense of joy.”

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