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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Celebrating the Day of the Dead during COVID-19

This Pleasant Hill family has gone all out to celebrate Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and they share why keeping the tradition matters even during COVID.

The regular big Des Moines Arts Center celebration of Day of the Dead can't happen now with COVID-19 restrictions, so families all over metro are hosting their own celebrations at home. The Banuelos-Acosta family has been heavily involved in the Arts Center ceremony and this year are keeping the tradition alive at home.

"Event though you're in a new country, a new culture, those are the things that have built from many many generation back to our great-grandparents that we had," said Antonio Banuelos-Acosta Sr. of the holiday. "So it's important for for us for them [our children] to carry that on. That's why we insist on having this tradition."

Their son and only one of their daughters could be home for the celebration since their oldest daughter was at college. The Banuelos-Acosta children have painted their faces and performed at the Des Moines Arts Center celebration every year ever since they were little.

"We've always danced every year the the Art Center so it really does feel a little different not being able to dance this year, not being able to express or celebrate Day of the Dead," said Antonio Banuelos-Moriel. "But we're trying to make the best out of the situation. We're celebrating here at home, we're remembering others."

A major component to the holiday is having conversations about their departed loved ones and sharing stories.

"We grow really close with our grandfathers and grandmothers," said Mayra Moriel de Banuelos. "There are a lot of stories to talk about."

The tradition includes making an altar or ofrenda displaying their departed loved ones in photographs and items that they enjoyed while they were with them. They would usually bring these altars to different parishes sharing the memories with their community. But this year they scaled it back to a single smaller display at home.

"One of the pictures we have is my grandparents," Banuelos-Acosta said. "They're celebrating 10 and five years of anniversaries of their departure."

Another picture they have featured on the altar this year is of a family friend and former swim coach to Banuelos-Moriel Trudy Hancock. 

"She passed ways July, so we're really honoring her too," Banuelos-Moriel said.

None of the Banuelos-Acosta children ever got to meet their grandfathers on either side of the family since they passed before they were ever born. Through the celebration each year they have heard stories about them. Banuelos-Moriel commented to his father that when asked the popular party question who would he have dinner with dead or alive, he would choose his grandfathers so he could know them even better.

"Even though we never really got to meet them, through this day, this celebration we really get to come to terms with them," Banuelos-Moriel said. "Learn their stories, learning how they were and how they formed us to being who we are today."