Dead Heads | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Dead Heads 

Local Matters

Halloween is just around the corner. So it makes sense that Rob Coates would put up a Day of the Dead shrine in his Mexican-imports store, Sur al Norte, in Montpelier. For the uninitiated, Dia de los Muertos is a venerable tradition - observed on November 1 and 2 - in which Mexican families honor their dearly departed. Of course, the pagan-meets-Christian holiday also celebrates life with sumptuous feasts, colorful decorations and general merriment. And it has spawned a folk-art industry of little clay skeletons in various outfits and scenarios.

Rather than display an imported shrine, Coates offered a couple of local schoolteachers a unique cultural-studies opportunity: to let their students create shrine objects and install them in his store. But first, the students had to dedicate them to someone. "I said they and the kids could pick whoever, real or mythical," says Coates. "Coincidentally, they both picked Steve Irwin."

The host of Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" met his fate last month at the business end of a stingray. It was a spectacular death, highly publicized and, as it happened, captured on film for all to see. No doubt it made an impression on kids. Still, Coates was a little surprised that entirely independent groups of schoolchildren in central Vermont chose to honor the Aussie naturalist. "It was unusual," Coates muses. "Two schools in two towns."

And two age groups: Sara Baker's second- and third-graders from Moretown Elementary, and Barbara Austin-Hutchins' juniors and seniors from Montpelier High School. The younger students' installation, near Sur al Norte's front entrance, is on a small table and comprises such objects as a little snake, foil pictures and candleholders. The wall-mounted high school altar is, appropriately, much bigger, says Coates - about 7 feet high and 5 feet wide. "There was more artistic license for the high school kids," he reports.

Locals can view the shrines at his River Street shop; everyone else can check out the Mexican merch at www.suralnorte.com.

And how is Coates spending the Day of the Dead? "Working, as always," he says. "Then I'll probably just get together with friends."

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston

Bio:
Pamela Polston is the cofounder, coeditor and associate publisher of Seven Days. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Culture

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation