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Release: Immediate

UI to celebrate Día de los Muertos

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The UI School of Social Work is bringing a tradition from Latin America to Iowa this fall with ¡Fiesta Mexicana! and recognition of Día de los Muertos.

The fiesta will be Thursday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St. Its purpose is to support the Bridges Project, a School of Social Work initiative intended to bring together English and Spanish speaking people in Eastern Iowa. The project's goal is to build collaborations between the groups in order to develop community services outside the UI and to increase cultural awareness within the university.

Bob Vander Beek, UI professor of social work, developed the idea for the fiesta after learning that San Antonio singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa would be performing at Hancher Auditorium Nov. 1. He spoke with Hinojosa's manager and learned that her Hancher appearance coincided with Día de los Muertos. Vander Beek said that since the fiesta he was planning fell just before the traditional Nov. 1-2 celebration of Día de los Muertos, he decided to use the holiday as a theme for the event.

Vander Beek continued his planning and arranging for additional entertainment with the holiday in mind. The result is a full slate of Latino and Anglo performers, including Hinojosa, Eugenio Solis, and The Dave Moore Group. Also performing will be Iowa City favorite Dave Zollo and Minneapolis based Thea Ennen and the Algorythms. The formal performances will be followed by a Tejano Dance band for those who wish to try out some Latin rhythms on the dance floor. West Liberty's La Mexicana Restaurante and Iowa City's La Perlita will cater the event. Traditional holiday candies will be sold.

In Mexico, Nov. 1-2 are used to celebrate the dead, a tradition rooted in the ancient Aztec belief that death is not an end, but a stage in an endless cycle much like the seasons. Death was not to be dreaded because it was not seen as final. When the Spanish brought Catholicism to Mexico, the two religions combined to create a unique blending of rituals and beliefs including Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.

Those who attend the UI celebration will be invited to participate in an Ofrenda, or altar, which traditionally is made in offering to the soul of someone who has died. Items that remind the living of the dead are placed on the altar as a celebration of the life of the deceased person. Participants are invited to bring photographs, objects or possessions, or even foods or drinks that would serve as reminders of the life of a dead loved one or anyone else whose life was inspiring to them. All the items will be placed on a group altar in front of the stage.

In addition to the UI School of Social Work, sponsors of the fiesta include the UI Latino Native American Cultural Center, Prairie Lights Bookstore and MCI. A number of local businesses and organizations employing or working with Latino people have made contributions to support the event.

Tickets for the event are available for $10 from the University Box Office at the Iowa Memorial Union, Prairie Lights Books, or the UI School of Social Work. For more information, call Vander Beek at (319) 335-1222.