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A local nonprofit is using an idea inspired by "Coco," Pixar's latest movie, as a way to bring communities and families together in celebration of loved ones who have passed on.

Lizette Cruz, community liaison at The Family Place, has constructed a community "ofrenda," a traditional display for the Día de los Muertos holiday of family members' photographs along with their favorite foods, beverages or other mementos.

"It was an idea that I just had to unify our community and to share our culture," Cruz said. "And 'Coco' helped us out a lot to share what Day of the Dead is."

By visiting the ofrenda at the nonprofit's Logan location, anyone in the community can participate in the new tradition and place a photo of a loved one — or a photocopy, since photos will not be returned. The ofrenda will be on display through the end of Día de los Muertos on Friday, Nov. 2.

This is the first Día de los Muertos since the U.S. premiere of "Coco," which features several of the holiday's traditions, including the ofrenda. In the film, the spirits of dead loved ones can leave the afterlife and visit living relatives on Día de los Muertos only if their pictures are placed on someone's ofrenda.

"People who've watched the movie 'Coco' saw how it's all about families, unifying of families and remembrance of families," Cruz said. "So I thought it would be great for what we do at The Family Place."

While "Coco" by necessity took some artistic liberties in its depiction of the afterlife, Cruz said the film's creators got the sentiment spot-on. Día de los Muertos isn't a somber or scary holiday, as people from other cultures might assume. Instead, it's a celebration and a remembrance of loved ones.

While the particulars of the tradition vary from place to place, several ingredients are common in ofrendas, Cruz said. There's the "papel picado," or paper flags with intricate cutout designs. There are marigold blossoms, candles and colorfully adorned skulls. The steps of the ofrenda represent the steps to heaven, Cruz said. Pan de muerto buns are topped with a design meant to resemble crossbones. Favorite beverages of the departed placed at ofrendas often include alcohol, but The Family Place's version is, of course, limited to soft drinks.

To invite people to visit the ofrenda, Family Place Events Manager Wendi Coombs posted a Facebook livestream on Monday, and so far the video has been viewed about 1,500 times.

"Happy to see this and know that our traditions are being passed on to others. Thank you for doing it," one person commented.

Coombs said the ofrenda is just one thing The Family Place is doing to celebrate the many cultures of Cache Valley. Just last week, the nonprofit began construction of a new multicultural center at its Hyrum location.

"We really want to recognize how culturally diverse this little community that just continues to grow and grow and grow is," Coombs said.

Coombs said she would love to have the nonprofit share other family centric traditions from various cultures in the future.

"I would love to see us do something German," Coombs said. "What is a German tradition that has to do with families? Or something from the islands. And so this is just a start. Liz has just put us on the precipice, and this is pushing us over the edge."

For more information, visit Belva Hansen — The Family Place at 1525 N. 200 West, in Logan, or online at www.thefamilyplaceutah.org.

staff writer

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