Altars, Dancing and Sugar Skulls: Las Vegas Marks Dia De Los Muertos
Valeria Pearson, left, and Jessica Perry took a couple of hours to paint their faces like sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos. The celebration in Las Vegas takes place at the Winchester Cultural Center.
Veronica Zaragovia
November 02, 2012

Photo by Veronica Zaragovia
Dancers filled the stage with color at the Dia de los Muertos celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 1 at the Winchester Cultural Center.

LAS VEGAS -- About five blocks away from the Winchester Cultural Center in Las Vegas I began to see the lines of cars parked on either side of the street. My excitement soared seeing such a turnout for this event in a city where the Mexican community doesn't have the longstanding, historic presence as that of Phoenix or Los Angeles.

I had recently interviewed Irma Wynants, who's responsible for making the public celebration of Dia de los Muertos into what it is today. She explained how the celebration grew from about 75 people at her Catholic church here to a county-wide event with roughly 2,000 attending.

Having lived in San Antonio, Texas, before moving to Las Vegas, I craved a chance to get steeped in a vibrant, colorful cultural celebration. That’s definitely what I got at the center last night.

I saw a performance of the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Martha Luevanos with stunning costumes in bright colors, skirts waving, faces painted as sugar skulls and scores of adults walking with children and soaking it all in just as I was.

The ofrendas, or altars, I saw included traditional ones dedicated to relatives or friends, as well as ones dedicated to public figures like Bob Marley or famous singers.

One commemorates the eight people who died in 2012 at Lake Mead. It was built by the Southern Nevada Agency Partnership, which includes the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA Forest Service.

The ofrendas had typical elements like pan de muertos, a loaf of somewhat sweet bread made for the altar, votive candles, marigold flowers, tequila and other treats that those people loved while alive.

Yesterday the groups who built the ofrendas spent hours putting them together and they will be judged by the public. The winner will be announced on Winchester’s Facebook page.

At Nevada Public Radio, we spoke with Irma Wynants and Erica Borges, who now organizes the event, on our State of Nevada program. Listen to the interview on the website.

Dia De Los Muertos in Las Vegas