Moab Happenings Archive
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The 13th Annual Day of the Dead is more than just a day
– It’s a tribute to life itself
by Nancy Kurtz

A network of community

Layers upon layers – when you ask Rhiana Medina, Executive Director of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center (MVMC), what is new and different, she goes right to the hot topic of the moment – the annual event that opens up the Center’s downtown gardens to the Moab community with which it has been closely interwoven for thirteen years. It’s a celebration not to be missed, and as Chamber of Commerce-y as it sounds, this really is one of Moab’s most stellar fests, one where you are likely to see layers upon layers of Moab denizens in a rare moment of partying together.

The small but powerful organization behind the event has been stitched together in the years since 2007 by the ideas, ideals, and dedication of a handful of community-minded locals. But since January of 2013, MVMC has been under the steady stewardship of Medina -

Today, she’s considering the numbers, which, she tells me, are going up. “2023 is looking to be the busiest year since the pandemic,” she says. “The world went crazy (then) and we were open and we were helping.” She attributes the current uptick to rising costs of living, soaring food prices that on some items have literally doubled, and “an ongoing need for people to have a place to go to navigate legal systems and take care of emergencies.”

With a hardworking staff of eight, five of whom are bilingual, the center wears a dizzying number of hats, as welcomer, translator, and connecting point to provide resources to the area’s most vulnerable, including both prospective residents and visitors coming through town, providing whatever it is they need in the moment, be it food, housing, or simply information and support.

“We do social services all day long,” says Medina. The offices are open Monday-Friday 9 to 5 and staff are then available for walk-ins, emails and phone calls.

But it’s not just about the work they do, Medina told Moab Sun News reporter Alison Harford last winter. “It’s about spreading (our) identity to the community and sharing it.”

A signature event:
…and what better way to share the mission than to invite that very community to the Festival del Dia de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, an ancient celebration that speaks to our common life experience, no matter what culture we are born into. It’s a meaningful cross-pollinating ritual that obviously speaks volumes to the many Moab residents who show up every year.

Medina ticks off the highlights – a live mariachi band, authentic Latin cuisine, evocative altars in memory of loved ones, complete with photographs, flowers, incense, salt, and arrays of candles, folk art, face painting and other activities for kids, and a small section for departed pets.

But there’s more - this year’s theme is Mother Earth: “And to that extent,” Medina says, “there will be a cultural exhibit that features the four seasons, and will draw parallels between nature’s cycles and human life cycles. We haven’t really done it before, but there’s always an educational component, which is part of our mission. It’s exciting to say it’s not exactly the same every single year!”

There will also be outreach to the schools for the entire month leading up to the celebration, including a reading and poetry lesson featuring Lisa Bickmore, the current Utah Poet Laureate, at the MVMC 5:30 to 7 p.m. on October 3.

“…so we can celebrate Moab as a culturally vibrant place and remind the community that at this small multicultural center, we want to take a moment to recognize and honor the life we’ve been given.”

Dia de Los Muertos, will be held Sunday October 29th hours – 1-5 p.m. 156 N 100 W Moab. And be sure to mention you read about the Day of the Dead and MVMC in Moab Happenings.
MVMC offices are open M-F, 9-5: 435-259-5444.

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