Thursday, November 30, 2023

Photos: Cheekwood holds annual day of the dead celebration


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Photos and Story by Sergio Pacheco/Contributing Writer

On Saturday, November 1, Cheekwood hosted its annual Day of The Dead celebration. The family friendly event provided plenty of performances, children’s activities and food selections.

The annual event celebrates the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a time when families gather to honor their deceased loved ones. It is believed that during the holiday’s festivities, the souls of the dead cross over to visit the living families, who have placed an altar in their honor.

The event started at 9 a.m. and Cheekwood’s parking lot became packed in the blink of an eye. Cheekwood’s entrance had so many cars lined up from all directions that some attendees even decided walking from a few blocks away was better than waiting to find a parking spot.

The Rose Study Garden had a band of three musicians singing and playing regional Mexican music from northern Mexico. People had two food options to choose from while they enjoyed the music. The first option was Delicias Colombianas, which served traditional Colombian food such as stuffed arepas, empanadas and Colombian picada, which is composed of plantain, chorizo, blood sausage, arepa, potatoes, yucca, rind pork and empanada. A small snack they also sold were buñuelos, which are Colombian cheese fritters. The second option was from a Mexican restaurant named Las Fajitas. They served tacos, chicken and beef fajita nachos, tamales and quesadillas.

Inside the Massey Auditorium, aesthetic altars were placed along the walls. The altar displays were set up by nine different local groups and organizations including Futuro of MTSU, Equal Chance for Education, Metro Police Department-Family Intervention Program and Glendale elementary, just to name a few.

“Setting up this Altar meant a lot to me, her family, and her friends,” said Estefany Quezada, a mechatronics engineer major at MTSU, about her late friend Naomi Bustamante, who unfortunately passed away in January of last year.

There were mixed feelings between happiness and sadness. The colorful decorations and presence of so many people gave the displays a warm feeling, while the loved ones of the deceased couldn’t help but feel a little sad – their faces with almost no expression and a blank stare said it all. The altar displays are usually decorated with what the deceased loved the most including food, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks and other things.

The Bradford Robertson Color Garden was where most of the performances and vendors were. On one side there was a stage where mariachi bands, folkloric dance groups and singers performed traditional music and dance. Some of the performers even had their faces decorated in sugar skull makeup. On the opposite side were vendors who sold Day of the Dead themed shirts, art, jewelry and face painting services. Cody Hale Art, a Murfreeboro based contemporary artist, sold handcrafted skull necklace pendants as well as prints from his art collection. Dos Fridas Coffee and Art sold Mexican folk art, folkloric tops and Costa Rican coffee.

“I tried painting my face at home, but it didn’t come out as I wanted so now i’m in line to get it professionally painted,” said Sofia Guerrero, an alumna of Lipscomb University. One of the face painting vendors gave a signature touch to his work of art by including glitter paint, which made his art stand out more.

The parking lot in front of the Cheekwood museum was filled with food and snack vendors. While the food smelled delicious, every vendor had a long waiting line.

“I’ve been standing here for almost five minutes, but as long as the line is moving and I get my food, I’m happy,” said Daisy Martinez, who patiently waited to get her hands on a Mexican prepared corn in a cup, fruit cocktail and freshly made cucumber and lemon water.

In the Frist Learning Center there were activities for young children to enjoy like Mexican paper cutting, or papel picado, colorful kites called barriletes, coloring skeleton masks, decorating sugar skulls and making monarch butterflies. 

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional event celebrated throughout Latin America and the Carribean. It’s a celebration of both life and death usually held on the first and second of November. In places like Peru, people celebrate Day of All The Living Saints on November 1st and Day of All the Dead Saints. People throughout Latin America and the Carribean celebrate by cleaning their loved one’s tombs, placing offerings and participating in large community festivals.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Brandon Black, email

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