Southwest Detroit businesses honor the dead with public ofrendas for Día de Los Muertos

Twenty one businesses have Day of the Dead altars on display until Nov. 6.

click to enlarge An ofrenda is an altar decorated with offerings to the dead like marigolds, food, photos of the deceased, sugar skulls, and Pan de Muerto (day of the dead bread). - Courtesy of Mexicantown Bakery
Courtesy of Mexicantown Bakery
An ofrenda is an altar decorated with offerings to the dead like marigolds, food, photos of the deceased, sugar skulls, and Pan de Muerto (day of the dead bread).

As the seasons change from summer to autumn, it is said, the veil between our world and that of the undead wanes.

This allows the souls of the departed to travel back to the physical plane to visit their loved ones during holidays like Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

As part of the Southwest Detroit Business Association’s annual Día de Los Muertos Ofrendas Tour, 21 local businesses have set up public ofrendas as both an invitation to their ancestors and to visitors to learn more about this tradition.

An ofrenda is an altar decorated with offerings to the dead like marigolds, food, photos of the deceased, sugar skulls, and Pan de Muerto (day of the dead bread).

Participating businesses with ofrenda displays include Mexicantown Bakery, Flamingo Vintage, Prince Valley Market, Los Galanes, El Rancho Mexican Restaurant, and more. Certain locations have discounts, performances, and children’s activities as well.

“Day of the Dead is joyful,” Flamingo Vintage owner Nikki Neuzil tells us. “You put out [the ancestor’s] favorite food and drinks. As an American tradition, when someone dies you mourn, and it’s this sadness, but in the Hispanic culture you celebrate them.”

Flamingo Vintage has displayed an ofrenda for the past two years. The first two were community-based where neighbors could place something on the altar for their loved one, but this year it’s dedicated to Neuzil’s father Carl Neuzil, who passed away last year.

“I have photos of him and his ashes on the altar,” she says. “I have been building altars for the last 10 years so it was a no-brainer when I got the store and all the businesses said they were doing ofrendas.”

Neuzil is originally from Texas and lived in Mexico for three years prior to moving to Michigan. While in Mexico, she attended several Día de Los Muertos celebrations which, she says, traditionally take place at a cemetery.

“You would go to the cemetery and build an altar at the grave and I just felt it was beautiful,” she says.

Though she doesn’t celebrate Halloween, she says Flamingo Vintage and neighborhood businesses will participate in a “trunk or treat” for local children on Halloween.

Dia de Los Muertos coincides with the Catholic observances of All Saints Eve on Oct. 31, All Saints Day on Nov. 1, and All Souls Day on Nov. 2.

The Southwest Detroit ofrendas will be on display through Sunday, Nov. 6.

The Detroit Institute of Arts also has an ofrenda exhibition on display until Nov. 6.

A full list and map of participating businesses is available on the Southwest Detroit Business Association’s Facebook page.

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About The Author

Randiah Camille Green

After living in Japan and traveling across Asia, Randiah Camille Green realized Detroit will always be home. And when she says Detroit, she's talking about the hood, not the suburbs. She has bylines in Planet Detroit News , Bridge Detroit , BLAC magazine, and Model D . Her favorite pastimes are meditating...
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