5 Things You May Not Know About El Día de los Muertos at Cheekwood - Cheekwood
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5 Things You May Not Know About El Día de los Muertos at Cheekwood

Published: 10/29/2019

This year, Cheekwood will host its 20th Annual El Día de los Muertos festival!

El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is one of the most important celebrations in Mexico and Latin America. The festivals, known for their colorful decorations, energetic music, and elaborate displays, demonstrate the culture’s strong sense of love and respect for ancestors while celebrating the continuance of life.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of El Día de los Muertos at Cheekwood, we’ve put together a list of five things you may not know about one of our most colorful celebrations:

1. The event was started to kick off Cheekwood’s outreach to Nashville’s rapidly growing Hispanic community.

El Día de los Muertos was started two decades ago as a means of outreach to the Hispanic community – a community that typically did not visit Cheekwood at that time.

“We wanted to create a space for Nashville’s growing Latino population to celebrate their culture and heritage in a fun and educational way.” – Nathalie Lavine, Vice President of Education & Outreach.

Due to the success of El Día de los Muertos in this outreach initiative, as well as Cheekwood’s desire to ensure that everyone who wanted to visit the institution would have access to do so, Cheekwood launched other outreach programs.  These included the Japanese Moon Viewing event, Destination Cheekwood, Art Outreach, and others.

2. El Día de los Muertos is Cheekwood’s busiest day of the year!

With 3,000 free passes handed out for the event, plus free admission for Cheekwood Members and ALL youth 17 and under, El Día has become the best attended event at Cheekwood. Approximately 5000 people attend each year, rain or shine. And new this year we are also offering free parking and shuttles from Valor Academy off Nolensville Road so more people can enjoy the festivities!

For more information on how to take advantage of our free shuttle service, visit our calendar page here.

3. It is the largest single-day Hispanic celebration in Middle Tennessee.

Over 60 community organizations, schools and vendors fill El Día de los Muertos with Tapete displays, Altars to honor ancestors, art, food, performances, music, activities and more making it the largest single-day Hispanic celebration in Middle Tennessee.

Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to join in on art activities throughout the day that celebrates traditional aspects of El Día de los Muertos.  For the 20th Anniversary, there are two new crafts this year for visitors to enjoy. Make your own Barrilete, or colorful kite, inspired by those seen in Guatemala. Barriletes are believed to help spirits find their way back to Earth. Visitors can also make their own Monarch Butterfly, which are believed to fly by the millions to Mexico to give flight to spirits.

For the 20th Anniversary of El Día de los Muertos at Cheekwood, we have upped the ante this year with TWO parades at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. The parades will be led by Aztec Dancers, and community participation is highly encouraged!

4. Over 300 volunteer hours are dedicated each year to prep art for the festival. 

To prep the art projects for El Día a lot of cutting, pasting, painting, and sorting is necessary.  Several organizations and community groups step up and volunteer. This year, it took over 60 volunteers and 300 hours to prep the material for the five art projects. This included prepping thousands of popsicle sticks, masks, tissue paper, clothespins, paperclips, sugar skulls, and more.

5. To ensure cultural accuracy, everything for El Día de los Muertos goes through a committee created specifically for the event.

Over 20 years ago, Cheekwood formed an advisory committee to plan the inaugural  El Día de los Muertos festival. The committee has always strived to make the festival as authentic as possible, including altars, tapetes, and vendors from the hispanic community selling traditional treats.

Dr. David C. Julseth, Professor of Spanish at Belmont University, has served on the committee for the past 20 years. According to Dr. Julseth, the committee involved members of the hispanic community from the very beginning.  The community has helped Cheekwood create an event that is fun, memorable and true to the spirit of the Day of the Dead.

The festival has become so popular, each year they have more and more people reach out to become involved in El Día de los Muertos at Cheekwood.

To learn more about El Día de los Muertos or to reserve your tickets, click here.

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