Charlotte gathers to honor the dead

The doors of downtown Charlotte’s premier Levine Museum of the New South will open in honor of Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Nov. 3. CLINIC affiliate Latin American Coalition, or LAC, has organized the event each year, in partnership with the museum, to provide Charlotte’s diverse community an opportunity to commemorate, honor and celebrate those who have died.

In its 13th year, LAC’s Día de Muertos event is expected to bring as many as 4,000 people to the museum. Attendees will enjoy an altar decorating competition, arts and crafts, traditional dancing, food and drinks, and children activities.

LAC is a community of Latin Americans, immigrants and allies promoting full and equal participation of all people in the civic, economic and cultural life of North Carolina — and they do so through education, celebration and advocacy.​ Thus, the local Mexican community is intimately involved in the planning, decision-making and managing of the yearly event. Charlotte’s unofficial matriarch of the local Mexican community, Ms. Lucila Ruvalcaba, is one such community members. Ms. Ruvalcaba organizes and runs the altar decorating competition while ensuring that everything associated with the Día de Muertos celebration accurately reflects the spirit and heritage of this special day and honors its celebrants.

LAC is devoted to its cultural mission of creating welcoming spaces for people of diverse backgrounds. According to Jonathan Peebles, development and operations director, the Day of the Dead event is more than a chance for the residents of Charlotte to engage with Latin American traditions. “Mexican culture is very unique in Latin America, and this event gives people from the rest of Latin America an opportunity to learn about Mexican culture — it’s new to them, too.” He goes on to describe the event’s importance to the community as a whole: “People who were born in North Carolina get to experience what someone else is bringing to the community. If you aren’t really interacting with someone from another culture, it is easy to overlook what they bring to the table, but when you meet them and interact with them, it is easier to form friendships and relationships.”

Mr. Peebles mentioned that, this year, the Día de Muertos celebration corresponds with a Carolina Panthers pro football game, and the museum is very close to the stadium. He hopes that many attendees to the game will make a quick stop at the event to learn more about fellow city residents and how their cultural heritage makes Charlotte a richer place to live for everyone.

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