Yesterday, I took an Altar making workshop at the shop called Back from Tomboctou with my friend Sukhjit. It was a crafty day for both of us. I was excited to find out about these workshops. I have been a collector of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ofrendas for years, always picking up a couple from my travels to Mexico. To my surprise Back from Tomboctou has been on Adams Avenue for over 20 years. The owners Claudio and Mirabel have been selling their folk art treasures for over 30 years.
This little shop is filled with mostly Mexican folk art but I did see some African and Asian pieces as well. What I did learn from this workshop was what the certain elements of a Dia de los Muertos altar meant and what you should include to honor your loved one. When you make an altar, you are to include food (plastic or pictures), liquor (little fake bottles), dried marigold leaves, incense, a picture of your loved one, candles and a tiny vial of water. There are meanings for the color of candle you use, the food you include, why you use incense etc…Additional elements include sugar skulls (calveras), skeletons and fun elements like sparkles and glitter.
I have always been a collector of Dia de los Muertos items because of the art aspect, but learning more about the cultural aspect was a highlight of the afternoon. I look forward to the Old Town festivities and possibly some of the Dia de Muertos Festivals going on the very end of October and the first week of November.