Dia de los Muertos Celebration at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History October 31 to November 2

From Thursday, October 31 to Saturday, November 2, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will host a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) community celebration to share the cultural importance of this Mexican festival. Guests will enjoy activities including a Monarch Migration Quest, face painting, crafts, altars, and more. Día de los Muertos attire is encouraged.

After more than a decade hiatus, the Museum’s Education Department, spearheaded by Community Education Manager Stefanie Coleman and Astronomy Programs Manager Javier Rivera, is reviving and expanding the celebration to invite more community participation.

“I grew up with Day of the Dead in Mexico,” Rivera recalls. “I remember it fondly. For several days, you hang out with family, you cook, you prepare, you enjoy, you remember those who passed away. And on that day, you celebrate. You’re not mourning, you’re celebrating the fact that they’re revisiting you for a while in your memory.”

Rivera particularly wishes that this year’s events will welcome many people from the Spanish-speaking community to the Museum, so the institution can better serve all of Santa Barbara. “This should be Santa Barbara’s Museum of Natural History. This is one good step in that direction.” He and Coleman hope this will lead to partnerships with community groups to plan involvement in next year’s celebration.

Coleman adds, “This year we are focusing on the connection between butterflies and Día de los Muertos. The migrating Eastern population of Monarch Butterflies is often abundant in Mexico during the Day of the Dead. We are sharing the cultural and ecological importance of the species in a fun quest that takes guests around the Museum. According to traditional belief, Monarchs are the souls of ancestors returning to Earth for their yearly visit. Marigold flowers guide the spirits to their altars using vibrant colors and pungent scent.”

“However,” she continues, “Monarch Butterfly populations in North America are in decline due to climate change, pesticides, and habitat loss. Join us at the Museum to go on a Monarch Migration Quest and learn more about the natural history behind Mexican traditions and how to help the butterfly population.”

In addition to the other activities, from Saturday, November 1 to Sunday, November 2, La Calenda will host a pop-up trunk show selling authentic hand-made textiles, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, and Día de los Muertos themed goods from artisans in Oaxaca and other Mexican states.

Schedule of Activities

Saturdays in October

  • Noon–2:00 PM: Festival preparation craft and decor workshops

Thursday, October 31

  • 11:00 AM: Ghost Wings storytime in the Museum Library

  • Noon: Marigolds and papel picado craft and decorating workshop in the pavilion

  • 3:00 PM: Día de los Muertos planetarium show

Friday, November 1

  • 11:00 AM: Calacas (skeletons) craft workshop in the pavilion

  • Noon: La Catrina (grande dame skeleton) craft and decorating workshop in the pavilion

  • 3:00 PM: Día de los Muertos planetarium show

  • 5:30–8:30 PM: Coco movie night and Alebrije (painted animal figurine) tour

Purchase tickets for movie and tour at sbnature.org/tickets.

Saturday, November 2

  • 11:00 AM: Nichos (altar frames) craft workshop in the pavilion

  • Noon: Ofrenda (altar) building demonstration in the pavilion

  • Noon–2:00 PM: Face painting in the pavilion

  • 3:00 PM: Día de los Muertos planetarium show

  • 10:00 AM–5:00 PM: La Calenda Trunk Show

Sunday, November 3

  • 10:00 AM–5:00 PM: La Calenda Trunk Show

El Latino, the only bilingual newspaper on the Central Coast, is the official media sponsor for these events.

About the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Powered by Science. Inspired by Nature. Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History inspires a thirst for discovery and a passion for the natural world. The Museum seeks to connect people to nature for the betterment of both, and prides itself on being naturally different. For more information, visit sbnature.org.

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