‘It’s like a family reunion’: Utahns celebrate Dia de los Muertos

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Colorful ofrendas are on display across Utah in celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

An altar paying tribute to the approximately 5,000 Utahns who died from COVID-19 is on display at the Utah Capitol. The public is invited to see it Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In West Valley City, a number of ofrendas created by Utahns are on display at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center.

Students from Kearns High School, local breast cancer survivors and volunteer Irma Hofer all crafted an altar.

“This is to honor our ancestors, our deceased, our people who have passed away,” Hofer said. “To remember them, to keep them in our hearts, because when we remember them, they’re alive in our hearts.”

She said each item placed on an ofrenda means something and serves a purpose. Hofer said elements of earth, wind, fire and water are incorporated into the displays, as well as personal treasures and photographs.

Hofer said the tradition of celebrating Dia de los Muertos is like having a family reunion. She said it’s believed the spirits of the deceased loved ones are present at the ofrenda.

“There is the belief that they do come with the aromas that come from the food, with the light, and the monarch butterflies that guide them to where the altars are so that they can see we are remembering them,” she said.

On the first day, the Latino community traditionally honors children who have passed away. They pay tribute to adults on Nov. 2.

“It’s like Veterans Day when we go to cemeteries, and the similarity is that we go to the tombs, clean the tombs, refresh flowers,” Hofer said.

Whether someone’s death came too soon, tragically, or was expected, Utahns bring their legacy to life every year.

The Dia de los Muertos display at the center is open until Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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