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Library News

By: Marcela Saldivia
For: Red Rock News
Date: October 29
, 2010

"Dia de los Muertos" Altar Display at Sedona Public Library

Hispanic Heritage month recently ended on October 15 (beginning September 15), a period during which the United States officially acknowledges and celebrates the significant contributions of the nation’s largest ethnic minority group. The estimated Hispanic population of the United States is 48.4 million, representing 16 percent of the total population. September 15 was chosen as the starting point of this celebration because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16 and Chile on September 18.

In Sedona, the majority of Latinos are from Mexico and on September 16 a special event to specifically honor this segment of our community was held at the library as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. The program included a video broadcast of the "Grito de Dolores" (the Declaration of Independence directly from the Zocalo in Mexico City), a live Mariachi band that played songs by the public’s request, and a generous donation of traditional Mexican food from Sedona’s Oaxaca Restaurant. Over 100 people attended this event, including English-speaking patrons, joining together with the primarily Hispanic attendees in this fun and spirited evening.

It is worth noting that this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the renowned Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, the first Latino author to win the Swedish Academy award in the 21st century since Mexican poet Octavio Paz in 1990. At Sedona Public Library you can find titles by Vargas Llosa in both the Spanish collection and in the regular fiction stacks. Some recommended titles in English translation are: “The Bad Girl;” “The Way to Paradise;” “The War of the End of the World;” “Making Waves;” and “The Feast of the Goat.”


From October 20 to November 2 all are invited to the library to see an authentic Altar or Ofrenda especially built by Sedona’s Mexican community for “Día de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.” This special holiday is celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican-Americans living in the United States and Canada with the purpose of gathering family and friends to pray for and remember beloved ones who have passed on.

“Dia de los Muertos” is sometimes thought to be similar to Halloween, although the two actually have little in common. Scholars trace the origins of Day of the Dead to indigenous ceremonies dating back thousands of years, and in particular to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. Mexican indigenous people combined their ancient beliefs with the Catholic observance of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day celebrated during the chilly days of November 1st and 2nd.

The legend tells that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st and the spirits of all deceased children (“angelitos” or little angels) are allowed to reunite with their parents. The spirits of the deceased adults follow on November 2nd and come down to enjoy the festivities that the living prepared for them.

In Mexico people build private altars or Ofrendas honoring their deceased using sugar skulls, “flores de cempasuchil” or marigolds, candles, mounds of fruits, rice and beans, turkey mole, tortilla stacks, corn, “pan de muerto” or loaves of sugar bread, and other favorite foods and beverages that the departed used to enjoy while alive. The weary souls are thought to come back for this special day to visit the living, so they need lots of food, sodas, hot cocoa, and water. Toys and candies are offered for the “angelitos,” and mezcal and tobacco for the adults. In many towns the cemetery becomes the center for this big fiesta and is decorated with thousands of yellow and purple flowers (the colors of death according to ancient indigenous beliefs), plenty of traditional foods and drinks, and bands playing music throughout the night. People believe that by commemorating their dead with this special festivity it will keep them happy and they will provide protection, good luck, and wisdom to their families.


November is designated as Native American Heritage month and Sedona Public Library will honor Native American achievements with a book and media display at the Library entrance. On Saturday, November 13 in the Si Birch Community Room at 6pm will take place “Jaguar Songs and Other Stories” --a bilingual reading in English and Spanish of a compilation of Native American folk tales and the retelling of eye-witnessed ceremonies by author Gary Every. Latino Services librarian Marcela Saldivia will read the Spanish translation. Light refreshments will be served.


During the month of November the Department of Latino Services of Sedona Public Library will be offering a second term of English as a Second Language every Monday, and a fourth term of Computer Literacy classes in Spanish every Thursday from 6:30 to 7:45pm.

Other ongoing programs include “Latino Cine Forum” on the first Monday of every month at 6pm screening internationally acclaimed movies from Spain and Latin America. Every first Saturday is “Bilingual Story Time” in the Children’s Room at 11am with stories, songs, games and handcrafts for children between 3 to 8 years old. For more information call Sedona Public Library 282-7714 or email

Marcela Salvidia
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Marcela Saldivia, Ph.D., is Latino Services Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.