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Planting Cempasúchil Flowers for Dia de los Muertos

a garden of blooming orange and yellow marigolds at the momentary

This past summer, Araceli Lopez, founder and director of the Latin Art Organization of Arkansas, and her team planted cempasúchil flowers (marigolds) on the grounds of the Momentary, aligning with the summer solstice. Cempasúchil flowers, with their vibrant colors and distinct smell, symbolize the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. This ancient Mexican religious holiday has historically rich traditions that integrate pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is often celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2 (dates vary by region and may be longer) in connection with the Catholic Holy Days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

During Dia de los Muertos, beautiful altars are created to honor and greet the departed as they make their journey back to be with the living each year. These altars become ofrendas, which often include photos of loved ones as well as their favorite foods and drinks. The ofrendas are decorated with the brightly colored cempasúchil flowers, which symbolize the sun, providing a lit path for the souls to find their way back to their families.


a woman in a sunhat poses in front of planted marigolds at the momentary
a person pours water over planted seeds with her hand as smoke billows from ceremonial sticks staked in the ground

Araceli and members of the Latin Art Organization of Arkansas, a group dedicated to promoting and strengthening Latin culture in Northwest Arkansas, watered and cared for the flowers since their planting at the Momentary. Following tradition, the flowers were intended to be harvested at the end of October to be featured on the community altar for this year’s Día de los Muertos festival. While the flowers unfortunately did not survive the deep freeze in mid-October, the event was a success. Hosted by Araceli and her team, the event was held at Shiloh Museum in Springdale and included food, music, and activities. The CB to You Mobile Art Lab was in attendance, featuring local artist Lupita Albarran. Lupita led an artmaking project creating alebrijes, or animal spirit guides.

a line of women dressed in brightly colored dresses for Dia de los Muertos

We hope that Crystal Bridges and the Momentary can continue to participate in Dia de los Muertos celebrations in years to come, planting and harvesting cempasúchil flowers and much more.


Written by Emily Rodriguez, manager of community programs, Crystal Bridges.


a Crystal Bridges booth featuring art kits and books about Diego Rivera