For the first time, Berkeley Lab’s Latin American and Native American (LANA) Employee Resource Group and Community Relations Office joined forces to participate in the Unity Council’s Día de los Muertos Festival. The event, which has been held annually in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood since 1996, draws thousands of visitors each year.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a cultural celebration of life and death. The holiday originated in Mexico, and was inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Celebrations are found all over the world among families, friends, and communities to remember those who have passed away. The cultural tradition includes building ofrendas (offerings) to honor the deceased with photographs, paintings, food, colorful calaveras (skulls), calacas (skeletons), and marigolds.

More than 200 families visited the Lab’s booth, where they had a chance to learn about our world-leading science, explore internship and career opportunities, and engage in hands-on activities – including a microscope station to explore everyday items up close, and a banana piano that taught the basics about circuitry and electrical conductivity.

The Lab’s booth was beautifully decorated with papel picado (colorful paper with intricate cut-outs) and marigolds, and also featured an ofrenda created by LANA members. The ofrenda paid homage to, and included photographs of, people important to the Lab’s history, including our founder, Ernest Orlando Lawrence; Nobel prize winners Glenn T. Seaborg and Luis Alvarez, California’s “godfather” of energy efficiency, Art Rosenfeld; and one of the nation’s foremost leaders on indoor air quality Joan Daisey.

The success of the booth was due in large part to engagement and leadership from LANA, as well as employees from across the Lab who volunteered their time to help staff the booth throughout the day.