Honoring Hispanic culture at Pilsen's National Museum of Mexican Art

Hispanic Heritage Month is all about learning and sharing culture. FOX 32’s Roseanne Tellez takes us to one of her favorite places, a treasure on Chicago's Lower West Side to do just that.

The National Museum of Mexican Art in the heart of Pilsen is the largest Latino cultural institution in America.

When you walk through the doors, you are struck by the bold colors, the paintings, photographs, ceramics and other fine art, telling the story of Mexican culture from both sides of the border.


While anytime is a good time to go, during Dia de los Muertos - or the Day of the Dead exhibit - may be the perfect time.

One of Mexico’s most celebrated holidays includes the long time tradition of honoring the dead with ofrendas, alters filled with pictures and mementos focusing on how a loved one lived their life.

The many skeletons are whimsical, wearing jewelry, playing instruments, even making the sugar skulls that are also a trademark of the event.

"Because although the Day of the Dead has the word ‘dead’ in it, it's important to remember that it's a celebration of life," said Mario Hernandez, National Museum of Mexican Art gallery education coordinator. "But it’s also an opportunity for artists to have a platform to not just honor those who passed away in their community, but also to use it as a platform for social change."

This year, a special ofrenda created by Moos Elementary School students on Chicago’s Northwest Side, remembers the children killed in Uvalde, Texas.

"This year's exhibition is dedicated to people that we have lost around the country to senseless acts of violence," Hernandez said.

Another exhibit pays tribute to possibly the most famous artist to ever come out of Mexico, Frida Kahlo. It features the works of artists inspired by Kahlo.

"Her artwork is very important of course to Mexicanos, but I think more importantly her life is what we really look at," Hernandez said. "The fact that she went through many periods of her life where she suffered physically and emotionally and she did a great job at translating those experiences onto her canvas."

For Hernandez, who grew up down the street from the museum and now runs its education programs for kids, his favorite work hangs in Nuestras Historias, the museum’s permanent collection.

"One of the highlights in Nuestras Historias is a large ten-foot-wide by eight-feet-tall piece created out of close to two million small glass beads," Hernandez said.

Called "The New Awakening", it’s one of 15,000 objects the museum has collected through the years.

To cap off a visit to an art museum, swing into the gift shop so you can grab a little something to take a piece of your experience home with you.

From artful skeletons to pillows, sculptures and framed embroideries, there are indeed excellent gifts. But also books and mementos from a day spent learning about the rich and colorful Mexican culture.

The Frida Kahlo runs through February and the Day of the Dead exhibit runs through Dec. 11.