CANCELLED DUE TO STORM Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop and Lecture: El Dia de los Muertos in Context — How the Day of the Dead Exemplifies the Greater Culture of Death in Mexico

Workshop and lecture with Dru Munsell
Time: 8:00
Admission: $50
Produced by Morbid Anatomy
**** Class size limited; must RSVP to morbidanatomy [at]

Mexico possesses a rich and complex relationship with death that extends far beyond the Day of the Dead holiday and its iconic sugar skulls. Indeed, from Mexico’s indigenous Mayans through her occupations and revolutions, death has taken a leading role in the formation of the country’s varied culture, causing scholar Claudio Lomnitz to even name Death as the symbol of Mexico’s national identity.

The lecture portion of this workshop seeks to facilitate a deeper understanding not only of Southern Mexico’s sugar skulls and El Dia de los Muertos as a whole, but also framing what is often thought of as the Mexican version of Halloween within the greater context of a culture that has blended indigenous practices, colonization’s Catholic religion, and the subsequent revolutions and violence, recognizing death as a necessary part of life not to be ignored or feared, but embraced and celebrated.

For this workshop, each attendee will be provided with a blank, undecorated sugar skull, fully assembled, dried, and ready to decorate. Royal icing in bright colors as well as other traditional decorative materials such as sequins and colored foils will be provided. Each attendee is encouraged to bring any personal decorating items they wish to use if they are making a skull for a specific departed individual, though smaller items are recommended. Traditional themes and patterns will be discussed, as well as decoration application techniques. At the end of the workshop, each person will have their own large sugar skull to take home. Because of the drying time involved with the royal icing, it is advised that skulls be left at Observatory to dry and set, and that finished skulls be picked up at the annual El Dia de los Muertos party. Extra blank skulls will be available for purchase for those interested, as well as directions for making the royal icing recipe that is recommended for skull decoration.

Dru Munsell is a biological anthropology degree candidate at Columbia University specializing in forensics, pathological human anatomy, and cultural fetish and taboo. She examines these topics in her thesis on the intersection of science and spectacle as literally embodied by both the “born different” and “working acts” of sideshow and circus performance. Dru currently works as an intern for the Morbid Anatomy Library as well as a scientific consultant, archivist, transcriber, and Jane-of-all-Trades for James Taylor’s Shocked & Amazed: On and Off the Midway. After completing her studies, she plans to either work with the governmental agency, DMORT, doing body identification at scenes of mass death with a particular interest in the mass graves of post-colonial revolutions and genocides in Latin America, or running away and joining the circus.

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