Lalo Cota mural on Fifth Street in Roosevelt Row.EXPAND
Lalo Cota mural on Fifth Street in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble

10 Ways to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Metro Phoenix

Thousands of years ago, honoring and celebrating the dead was an integral part of Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec cultures. Today, that tradition includes the annual Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) celebration on November 2. It originated in Mexico, but the holiday is celebrated in the U.S. and several other countries.

Dia de los Muertos honors those who have passed away, including family, friends, and others who’ve made significant cultural contributions. “It elevates our humanity, reminding us that death is a shared human experience,” says Carmen Guerrero, artist and executive director for Cultural Coalition.

Often, it’s celebrated with music and dance, as well as ofrendas (or altars) created in homes and community settings. “It’s a way to honor our ancestors and continue to tell their stories,” Guerrero says.

Here in metro Phoenix, celebrations range from festivals to exhibitions. Here’s a look at 10 ways you can commemorate Dia de los Muertos around the Valley.

Dia de los Muertos festivities at Mesa Arts Center include stilt walkers.EXPAND
Dia de los Muertos festivities at Mesa Arts Center include stilt walkers.
Mesa Arts Center

Dia de los Muertos Festival
Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery
Saturday, October 27
Ballet Folklorico Esperanza presents a family-friendly festival including low rider car show, salsa contest, live entertainment, and costume contest. The festival starts at 4 p.m. and concludes with an 8 p.m. candlelit walk through the cemetery. Learn more on the Facebook event page.

Dia de los Muertos Festival
Mesa Arts Center
Saturday, October 27, and Sunday, October 28

Explore an altar exhibit, or add your own offering to the community altar, during the free festival that also includes a car show, live music, dance, an artisan market and live painting by Such and Champ Styles. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m. Get details on the Mesa Arts Center website.

Mikiztli: Dia de los Muertos PHX Festival
Steele Indian School Park
Sunday, October 28

Join Cultural Coalition for a free celebration of life that honors indigenous cultures and traditions with songs, flowers, food, and visual arts. The event, which includes a candlelight procession at sunset, runs from 1:30 to 8 p.m. Find more information on the event website.

Looking back at a previous Cultural Coalition festival.EXPAND
Looking back at a previous Cultural Coalition festival.
Cultural Coalition

Dia de los Muertos Reception
Wilde Meyer Gallery
Thursday, November 1

Head to Wilde Meyer Gallery during the Scottsdale ArtWalk for a free reception to celebrate with artwork, refreshments, and an altar of pet photographs contributed by community members and gallery staff. The reception happens from 7 to 9 p.m. at 4142 North Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Learn more on the Wilde Meyer Gallery website.

Dia de los Muertos Ball
Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center
Friday, November 2

Don your best Day of the Dead make-up and attire for a ball to raise money for community art classes. The evening, which starts at 8:30 p.m., also includes art, music, dance, poetry, and a best-dressed Catrina or Catrin contest. Tickets are $30 (or $50/couple). Find more information on the ALAC Facebook page.

Scottsdale Dia de los Muertos
Old Adobe Mission
Friday, November 2

Celebrate with music, dance, art, food, and an interactive community altar from 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday at 3817 North Brown in Scottsdale. Altars and art installations will also be on view 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4. Get details on the venue website.

Altar created by artist Margarete Beeson for a previous Phoenix Public Library exhibit.EXPAND
Altar created by artist Margarete Beeson for a previous Phoenix Public Library exhibit.
Matthew Giacomazzo

Dia de los Muertos Exhibit and Performance
Burton Barr Central Library
Friday, November 2

Check out an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars during the free November First Friday reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m., which includes a 7:30 p.m. performance by The Son Jarocho Collective featuring indigenous poetic music rooted in resistance. That’s the last day you’ll be able to see the exhibit, which opened on October 15. Learn more on the Phoenix Public Library website.

Dia de los Muertos Festival
Azukar Coffee Shop
Saturday, November 3

See live painting by several artists, including Lalo Cota and Adam Vigil (or A-Bomb), during this family-friendly event that also includes art, music, food, and entertainment. The event runs 4 to 9 p.m. at 7246 South Central Avenue. Learn more on the Murals of Phoenix website.

Dancers perform during a Dia de los Muertos celebration at Desert Botanical Garden.EXPAND
Dancers perform during a Dia de los Muertos celebration at Desert Botanical Garden.
Desert Botanical Garden

Dia de los Muertos Celebration
Desert Botanical Garden
Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4

Explore altars created by local artists, in addition to music, dance, storytelling, and artisan offerings in the Mercado. The 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. event includes a 5 p.m. procession with performers and garden visitors, which concludes with a traditional burning of troubles ceremony. Free with garden admission, which is $24.95 for adults. Get details on the Desert Botanical Garden website.

Dia de los Muertos Festival
St. Mary’s Basilica
Sunday, November 4

Celebrate with an altar, music, dance, local artisans, free kid’s activities, and car show featuring trunk altars. The event is free, but organizers are requesting donations of non-perishable food for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Event hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 231 North Third Street, Find more information on the venue event page.

Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version.

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