PHOTOS: 1,400 People Celebrate the Dead at the MAH

Friday's Día de los Muertos celebration coincided with Free First Friday, making it the most popular night at the Museum of Art and History since Bike Night in May.

Perhaps the only thing more wondrous than a child staring at the world in awe is a child staring at the world in awe through the blackened eye sockets of a sugar skull face.

Last night's First Free Friday at the MAH saw many painted faces, but it was the swirl and flare of the colorful skirts of UC Santa Cruz dance group, Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas, that captivated everyone's attention.

A record-breaking 1,400 people flocked through the museum during the five-hour event, which coincided with the third and final night of the Mexican holiday Día De Los Muertos. 

The museum hasn't attracted this many people since Bike Night back in May, which brought some 1,800 or more people through its doors.

"Off the top of my head I would say that the regular amount [at First Friday] would be like six hundred to eight or nine hundred visitors," said Diana Kapsner, the MAH's Visitor and Volunteer Services Manager.

Fourteen hundred, not counting dead people—that is.

On the third day of the dead, adult spirits are believed to come back and fraternize with the living at the altars made for them by their loved ones.(The first two days of the holiday make contact with deceased pets and children, respectively.)

If the ticker at the MAH could have kept track of spirit visitors last night, the number would have probably smashed Bike Night.

Hundreds of mementos and photographs have collected on the community altar over the past two weeks, remembering grandparents, lovers, lost sisters and brothers, and even a pet cat named Tofu.

When the traditional Mexican dancers weren't stunning the audience, the husband and wife duo, ZunZun filled the atrium with the upbeat rhythms of the Americas, and a changing slide show of musical instruments.

Upstairs, but still in ear shot, Santa Cruzans crammed their answers onto the list The Best Feeling in The World, which included:

"a morning hello from a stranger with a smile,"


"blowing bubbles,"

"coffee and alcohol together"

and "looking into my husband's caramel-colored eyes".

The Things I Can't Let Go Of list included answers: "NPR," and "Mike Levy's leg I broke pushing him in the pool."

We hope Levy is okay. 

For the next Free First Friday on December 7th, the MAH partners with the Second Harvest Food Bank to entice the community back with free Mexican food, hot cider, and music by Bob Burnett

Do you think December's First Friday will beat last night's attendence of 1,400? Tell us about your favorite Free First Friday at the MAH in the comments!


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