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Release: Oct. 18, 2001

Mexican music, food, dancing featured at fifth annual Day of the Dead celebration Oct. 27

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowans can join in a grand celebration of life at the fifth annual Day of the Dead celebration, Saturday, Oct. 27 from 6 p.m.-midnight at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St. in Iowa City. The festival, which is part of the Mexican tradition, will include music, dancing, community art, "ofrendas" and more. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 13 accompanied by an adult.

This year's performers include Latino Pride, a Des Moines-based Tejano musical group that has been committed to "keeping 'musica Latina' alive in Iowa" for more than 20 years. The eight-member band is led by Santiago Gomez and Antonio Luna. Also performing will be Duamuxa, Mochi Parra, and activist artist Francisco Herrara. Herrara will be a guest on "Iowa Talks," at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 on WSUI-AM 910.

The evening will begin with family activities including piñata, face painting, mask making, and Spanish Bingo at 6 p.m., followed by a welcome and presentation of "ofrendas" at 7 p.m. Then the music and dancing will begin.

Day of the Dead is a Mexican 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.

The Iowa City tradition began in 1997 with a group faculty, staff and students in the University of Iowa School of Social Work joined with other community members to help build relationships between Latinos and others living in and around Iowa City and create a better understanding of Mexican culture among social work students and local residents. It has grown into a community-wide event organized by a group of volunteers of many ethnicities from school districts, social service agencies, and businesses in Iowa City, West Liberty, and Columbus Junction.

In May, the Day of the Dead Committee was awarded the Mariko Mizuhara Award for Cross-Cultural Understanding from UI International Programs.

The event is co-sponsored by the Day of the Dead Committee, the UI School of Social Work, the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, Opportunity at Iowa, New Pioneer Co-op, Iowa City Federation of Labor SEIU Local 1999, National Conference for Community Justice, UI Council on the Status of Latinos, and local business and individuals. For more information, call Bob VanderBeek at (319) 335-1250.