Death Becomes Her

Day of the Dead comes alive at a midtown shop

Photo by Jeremy Sykes

You could say they were driven by morbid curiosity. In January of last year, months after opening Kulture, their midtown clothing boutique, Mexican Americans David Garcia and Cuahutemoc Vargas took over the space next door to sell items of a graver nature, ones that celebrated Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which honors departed loved ones every year from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

“It was really spontaneous,” says Garcia of the decision to expand. Pretty soon, ethnically inspired nonseasonal goods—such as their Keepin It Paisa T-shirts and coin purses bearing the visage of Frida Kahlo—were sharing shelf space with more macabre pieces made south of the border, turning the neighborhood into Día de los Muertos central, with nearby Zanzibar Trading Company serving as the granddaddy of Day of the Dead gift shops. Kulture now offers everything from papier-mâché La Catrina—aka Skeleton Lady—figurines (pictured above) to hand-painted sugar skull ceramics to skull-themed pillar candles, and paper versions of traditional bolillo bread rolls, which all await placement on shrines intricately decorated in memory of deceased relatives or friends.

Photo courtesy of Kulture

“My grandfather loved bolillo, so we will definitely have that on the altar,” says Garcia. “You want to take passed loved ones’ favorite foods, their favorite drinks, their favorite music, and basically have a party with them. That’s why you see a lot of colorful stuff for Day of the Dead, not just black and white. They want you to celebrate their life.”

1006 24th St. 442-2728. kulturedc.wixsite.com/kulture