DENVER — As part of the Latino Cultural Arts Center, Ofrendas is a program that celebrates the traditions of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
The two-day Mexican holiday takes place on November 1 and 2, and celebrates both life and death. It acknowledges that death is part of life, and demonstrates there is no need to fear death. Instead, offerings are created for loved ones who have passed, creating a cycle of memory.
The offerings, ofrendas, are used to decorate home altars and can typically include marigold flowers, pictures of those who have died, their favorite food or drink, and calaveras de azucar, or sugar skulls.
At a sugar skull workshop hosted by Ofrendas on Wednesday, it was said that the calaveras are meant to guarantee the souls of loved ones arrive to their eternal rest.
Marisa Sanchez attended the workshop on Wednesday, and decorated a purple sugar skull with a crown made of sunflowers for her daughter, Jordan. Jordan Valdez died in 2022 at only 29 years old.
“Jordan was a baller. She played basketball. She played soccer. She was goalie in soccer. She was in track, cross country. She was an excellent snowboarder," said Sanchez. “She always was happy though, even on her bad days... Broke her arm twice, snowboarding on rails. But that didn't stop her. She still went back on the hill with her cast. She ended up going to prom with her cast. We had to cover it up with the sash, so she could take pictures.”
Sanchez took great care with her calaveras, adding in gold hoops and dimples to represent her daughter. She felt as though her heart was ripped out when she learned Jordan died.
“I wouldn't want to have any mother have to go through that," Sanchez said through tears. “There's always that void. There's always that space. Nothing will ever fill that.”
Jordan loved tamales and Starbucks, so her mother plans on placing those on Jordan's altar, along with her snowboard and goggles. Sanchez misses everything about her daughter, but said one day they will meet again.
“Life is kind of at a standstill. I know I'll see you again, and I know that you check in on me," said Sanchez, while decorating the sugar skull. “I see your beauty everywhere. I have remembered the good times. And your laugh and your smile is what gets me through today.”
Sanchez is grateful to have Dia de los Muertos as a dedicated time and space to celebrate Jordan's life.
“It's a joyous celebration," said Sanchez. "It's that date that gets me through the other 364 days.”
Ofrendas has limited space in their upcoming workshops. To learn more, click here..