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Release: Oct. 18, 1999

UI School of Social Work to celebrate Latino Festival Day of the Dead

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa School of Social Work is bringing a tradition from Latin America to Iowa once again this fall with the Fiesta Mexicana Day of the Dead Celebration. The third-annual fiesta will be Oct. 31 at 6 p.m. at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St.

This year's celebration will include performances by Tish Hinojosa, a widely-acclaimed Latina folk singer, and Rondalla Patzcuarense, a guitar band composed of 15 young men from Patzcuaro, Mexico who are being brought to Iowa for their first American performance. Patzcuaro is in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the state from which many Latinos currently living in Iowa migrated. Also performing will be Los Matachines, a group of middle-school aged children from West Liberty who present ceremonial, traditional dances, and Grupo Estrella, a Tejano band who kept last year's crowd dancing until midnight.

Fiesta Mexicana began in 1997 through the efforts of faculty, staff and students in the UI School of Social Work who wanted to help build relationships with Latinos living in and around Iowa City and create a better understanding of Mexican culture among social work students and local residents. It has since expanded and is now planned by a volunteer citizens' committee composed of representatives from a variety of school districts, social service agencies, and businesses in Iowa City, West Liberty, and Columbus Junction.

In Mexico, Nov. 1 and 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 "Dia de los Muertos," Day of the Dead, which coincides with the Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

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.

Tickets for Fiesta Mexicana are $10 for adults and $5 for high school students. There is no charge for children 12 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance at Prairie Lights Books, new Pioneer Co-op, or La Mexicana in West Liberty. For more information call Bob Vander Beek at the UI School of Social Work at (319) 335-1222.

In a preview of her Fiesta Mexicana appearance, Hinojosa will perform Saturday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. at The Mill in Iowa City. Tickets should be purchased in advance at the restaurant or by calling (319) 351-9529.