All over the world, there are celebrations honoring the dead at the end of October and beginning of November, a time when shorter days lead into winter.
The Day of the Dead—known in Spanish as Día de los Muertos, or just Muertos—is celebrated widely in Latino communities. When the Spanish—who already celebrated All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day—arrived in Mexico, they encountered Indigenous ceremonies honoring the dead. Over time, the practices of these very different cultures blended into the joyous Muertos festivities celebrating lost loved ones that we see today.
In Mesoamerican villages and towns, a calendar of rites and rituals takes place throughout the year. As documented by the award-wining photographer William Frej in his book Seasons Of Ceremonies: Rites and Rituals in Guatemala and Mexico (Museum of New Mexico Press, November 2021), there are beliefs and world views underlying these complex and profound activities, which are done as an essential way of creating connections to the natural forces of the universe.
Ritual actors and natural objects are not just symbolic representations, they embody a force of life. Such ceremonies not only unite communities and celebrate the seasons of the year, but they also help to ensure harmony and health now and for future generations. At the most visible, public level, it is the traditional clothing, the dances, and the elaborate processions that grab your attention. But below the surface, these are carefully staged events with clearly defined roles and profound meanings.
Frej’s photography illuminates these indigenous rites and rituals in compelling imagery, revealing their function as manifestations of reality, not mere portrayals or re-enactments of ancient myths.
UPCOMING: Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs from William Frej’s newest book, Blurred Boundaries: Perspectives on Rock Art of the Greater Southwest, opening Friday Dec. 29.
The artist will be in attendance for a book signing at the opening reception Friday Dec. 29 from 4 to 7 p.m.