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Expanding cultural celebrations in town

Dia de los Muertos celebration expands to an entire month of Latin American culture


For the past three years, Newberg has celebrated Día de los Muertos. This year, the event is being expanded into Latin American Heritage Month.

“This year we wanted to broaden the celebration, broaden the experience and be able to include the Latin American community because Día de los Muertos is pretty exclusive to Mexico,” said Caleb Thurston, Chehalem Cultural Center programming coordinator.

The month kicks off 5 p.m. Oct. 24 with an artist’s reception at the cultural center.

“The exhibit features several artists, from Costa Rica, Chile and Mexico,” Thurston said. “It shows the evolution in Latin American art history. The mural movement, surrealist painting and some installation art works as well.”

Then, on Oct. 26, Teatro Milagro, or Miracle Theater, will perform “El Niño Diego.”

“They perform bilingual plays as a traveling troupe. We will be one of their stops on tour,” he said. “It’s a 45-minute to an hour show. It’s all ages, geared toward families. It will be followed by art workshops.”

Then, Nov. 2 the signature event occurs.

“It’s an all afternoon event,” he said.

Starting at 1 p.m., there will be Aztec dancers, tortilla making, food and craft vendors, music and at 3 p.m. the Youth Mariachi Project. The night concludes with a community dance sponsored by Newberg High School at 7 p.m.

Rosa Olivares, Latino services for the Newberg Public Library, said the event started at the library.

“Through the library I did small events and then I started celebrating Día de los Muertos, did workshops and movies related to workshops, celebrating the other traditions of Latin America than Cinco de Mayo,” Olivares said.

Back then, she said, the cultural center had a board member of Mexican descent who encouraged the center to expand the event. After receiving a grant, they hosted Día de los Muertos for the first year in 2010.

“We are now in our fourth year and expanding more,” she said. “We thought why not showcase more Latin American culture and that’s what we did here in Newberg.”

She said although there is a national Hispanic Heritage Month spanning Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, they wanted to expand it further through Nov. 16.

“We want to showcase culture so Newberg residents can understand what we do,” she said. “A lot of residents think (during Día de los Muertos) we are praising the devil, but we’re not. It’s a colorful celebration of life, honoring those who have passed away, remembering them.”

She said despite the few who are adamant about what they think the event is, the community has been supportive and embracing of the celebration.

“Over the past four years, Día de los Muertos has become just as important as Cinco de Mayo,” Olivares said.

She added that she hopes that in the future Latin American Heritage Month can showcase other aspects of Latin American culture, including customs from Chile and Puerto Rico.

“What’s going to happen, is more opportunity for people that couldn’t come one day, they can enjoy Latin American culture,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”

For more information, visit www.chehalemcultural center.org.



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  • 2 Oct 2014

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