La Muerte en el Altar

Tomas Casademunt, Photographer, Spain

In collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno, a Mexico tradition has arrived at Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) in the form of photography with the unveiling of La Muerte en el Altar (Death on the Altar).  La Muerte en el Altar is a series of colorful photography captured by Tomás Casademunt of personal family altars created in celebration of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Día de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday observed on November 2 in remembrance of lost loved ones.  The holiday is part of the cultural tradition that embraces death as an ever-present part of life’s journey.

Fifteen photographs, currently on exhibit in the airport’s arts lounge and second level boarding areas, reflect eight years of work by Casademunt who visited numerous regions in Mexico photographing family altars. On Día de los Muertos, families prepare makeshift altars to welcome back the souls of their deceased loved ones. It is believed that on this day a passage between the spirit world and the living world opens to reunite the souls of the deceased with their friends and family, who pay homage to them through these altars.

“We are pleased to present this exhibit in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno and the Airport’s Arts & Culture program,” said Claudia Arguelles-Miller, Airports Marketing Manager. “Our hope is that passengers enjoy these beautiful images and are able to experience some of the Day of the Dead traditions of Mexico.”

Altars vary from region but share some common elements: they are full of color and light, decorated with tissue paper, pictures of the deceased, feast offerings of food and drinks, and personalized with objects representing the individual’s personality and interests. Illuminated candles placed nearby light a pathway guiding souls back to their homes on earth and a road of salt to connect the afterlife with the world of the living. They also use marigold flowers (zempazuchil) and incense to guide the travel of the souls with their aroma.

“This celebration is very special for Mexicans, showing the syncretism of our indigenous culture with the Catholic tradition, as it is celebrated after All Saints Day; it mixes elements of both cultures and exemplifies the melting pot that is Mexico nowadays,” expressed the Deputy Consul of the Consulate of Mexico, Nuria Zuniga. “Tomás Casademunt is not Mexican by origin, so it is really meaningful that he captured the essence of this celebration in such an extraordinary way, and we are really grateful for that appreciation of our culture and traditions.”

La Muerte en el Altar was previously shown at Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles, and in different museums in Mexico City and La Paz Baja, California. The exhibition in Fresno was possible through the support of the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles.