Sugar Skulls, Mexican Cuisine Mark Day of the Dead

UPDATED: November 4, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.

More than 500 revelers in colorful costumes and face paint gathered at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology on Saturday to celebrate the Day of the Dead. The afternoon event featured traditional Mexican music and cuisine served by local restaurants.

The atmosphere at the Day of the Dead festivities was anything but macabre. As one of the most important holidays in Mexico, the two-day celebration commemorates the deceased, who are traditionally said to return to earth and visit their loved ones.

In line with centuries-old customs, the Peabody Museum was decorated with an offertory altar, skeletons, sugar skulls, and papel picado, or decorative paper craft.

J. Rodrigo Leal ’16 and Diego H. Huerta ’15 obtained tickets to the event through their class, Societies of the World 30: “Moctezuma’s Mexico: Then and Now.”  


“We’re Mexican-American students, so this is a way that we get to take part in the festivities and celebrate here in Boston,” Leal said. He added that the decorations, including papel picado and calaveras—sugar molded to look like human skulls—were very similar to those of previous Day of the Dead events he had attended.

Like many others, Leal and Huerta had their faces painted.

“We learned in class that during Day of the Dead, by painting yourself as a sort of a calavera—a skeleton or a skull—you enter this liminal space between life and death, so we’re kind of representing the spirits that are participating in this event and becoming part of the atmosphere,” Leal said.  

Tickets were required for entrance to the event.

Attendee Sandra Canas, who had attended the museum’s Day of the Dead celebration in the past, said she felt this year’s iteration was less lively than in previous years.

“It’s great that the museum does this. I’ve been coming for the past four years,” Canas said. “It used to be free. This place was so crowded that you couldn’t even walk. It was all you can eat and all you can drink…. I can see that it’s not the same.”

Mirna Orellana, another attendee, agreed. “It’s more slow and subdued,” she said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: November 4, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the middle initial of J. Rodrigo Leal ’16.