The origins of Dia de los Muertos can be traced back much further than modern historical archives. As many as 3,000 years ago, cultures across Central and South America honored their lost loved ones during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, a tradition that Sonoma will honor this week with a series of exhibitions and events for Day of the Dead.
Adorned with skulls, marigolds and butterflies, traditional ofrendas (altars) can be seen at the Sonoma Community Center and the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art during community displays this week. But Valley floral designer Tasha Drengson is taking the celebration to the source with an installation at Mountain Cemetery called “Bouquets to the Dead.” The cemetery’s entrance will feature a traditional La Calavera Catrina (“elegant skull”) altar, and visitors will be led by a string of marigolds through the exhibition of art that honors those buried in the cemetery.
“It came to me in a vision,” Drengson said of the display, which will feature work from a variety of Valley artists. “I’ve been a floral designer for 40 years and I’ve created thousands and thousands of funeral arrangements. I’ve always been drawn to Dia de los Muertos, and I feel extremely drawn to honoring people.”
In fact, Drengson has been remembering the deceased in Mountain Cemetery for the past three years, bringing floral arrangements to the graves to mark Dia de los Muertos. This year, she expanded that effort, getting a permit from the city to host the art installation that will be free for the community to visit. From a birds’ nest big enough for a human, to a heart-shaped display of red roses, she hopes the community will participate as well.
“I am putting it out to the whole town that everyone can come and embellish their loved one’s graves,” she said. Installation will take place Oct. 31, and will be open to the public from dawn to dusk on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2.