UTPB to host Dia de los Muertos

Daniela Marin takes a photo of the Dia de los Muertos alter set up at the Wagner Noël Performing Art Center for UTPB’s Dia de los Muertos Festival Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Mildand. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

University of Texas Permian Basin is hosting a Dia de los Muertos Festival at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center Nov. 2.

Director of Orchestra and Mariachi Jean Gomez said Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of the death of those who have passed away. He estimated that more than 100 people are involved in the event.

“In Latin culture, it’s a way of … giving that homage … just to remember all these people who have passed away,” Gomez said.

“We will have the community altar. The altar is also called ofrenda and what we will have there is a way for people (to share) pictures of their loved ones who have passed away … It’s actually an altar of compassion and respect for all these people that have passed away. Instead of being a sad celebration, it’s a good way of remembering these people and … it’s really a celebration. That’s why we try to do live music and have all these events and even the Ballet Folklorico is going to be part of it, so it’s kind of a happy celebration,” Gomez said.

Orchestra Director and UTPB Assistant Professor of Music Jean Gomez plays the violin with a group of students as they perform for guests at the UTPB Dia de los Muertos Festival Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Free events will go on from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 2. Food trucks and tables to eat at will be outside. There will be 15-20 vendors in the lobby and face painting will be available. The show will be on the main stage.

A closing show with the orchestra, mariachi and Ballet Folklorico from UTPB will round out the festivities at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Wagner Noël website or at the door.

“That’s just a huge show that takes a lot of production and it’s a lot of moving parts,” Director of Orchestra and Mariachi Jean Gomez said.

The Ellen Noël Art Museum will have activities for children.

“It’s completely family friendly,” Gomez said.

Performances start at 4 p.m.

“Our faculty is performing. Our students. We will have participation from school mariachis” from Midland high schools, he said.

Two years ago, about 100 people attended, but they are expecting more this year. Plus they are getting more support from the community.

UTPB art student Kari Kim peers out from behind her artwork as she waits at her art market booth during the UTPB Dia de los Muertos Festival Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Last year, they held Las Posadas, which is based on the story of Mary and Joseph and their quest to find a place for Jesus’ birth, Gomez said.

They hope to have Dia de los Muertos one year and Las Posadas the next and so on.

The music department is organizing the event.

“We’re trying to include some other colleges and other departments from the university. The Spanish department, history department, visual arts are going to be involved in this show,” Gomez said.

He added that planning Dia de los Muertos has taken a lot of work. He started in early July.

“It’s just putting a lot of people together. It’s time consuming. But I think at the end it is really worth it,” Gomez said.

The event is completely created by people from here.

”I believe there is a certain sense of pride in producing something that is high quality. …Even this year with selling tickets, the kids are excited because the tickets are for something that they are creating and it just creates that (feeling) that we are able to do huge things. It’s just a matter of putting everyone together and making it work,” Gomez said.