Rem and I have made a custom of observing Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This Mexican holiday celebrates and honors deceased family members and friends. Altars are arranged with photos of loved ones, favorite foods and beverages, memorabilia and items to represent things they enjoyed such as sports or cultural activities. Candles, skulls, marigolds, and pastries shaped to represent bones are all part of traditional decorations.
We set up an altar on the top of a dresser in the living room, hang up a ribbon of paper hearts, each one naming a loved one who has died. We hang a banner of colorful papel picado (perforated paper) and arrange photos with candles, flowers and fresh produce. A plate of pan de meurto (bread of the dead) sweet pastries is joined by some packaged chocolate candy and other items that remind of us of our loved ones or items that they enjoyed.
I included a picture of my dad and my sister Sarah after a bike ride they completed years ago along with a program from an art exhibit in which he and I both had entries. A few small feathers and one large one were part of the decorations because they’ve become a positive symbol linked to my father.
We attend a celebration at a nearby community center. This year was the 25th anniversary of the event. We have gone quite a few times over the years and have seen this event change and grow. Although the roots of Dia de los Muertos are in Mexico, this is a multicultural community celebration.
One large room was lined with beautiful altars while another was full of tables for kids to create different art projects, including tissue paper flowers. I was a little sad not to have a kid with me and an excuse to sit down and get my hands on the crafting supplies.
Here are more pictures from the event:
We met up our friends Rico and Tom before the procession. Tom is wearing a sweet miniature altar he made for his sister, Tracy, with sprigs of fresh herbs including rosemary for remembrance.
The procession went through the neighborhood, led by the Mizcoalt Aztec dancers, a large group of male and female dancers of all ages, wearing intricate costumes with elaborate feathered headdresses. The dancers wore leg bands with ayoyote seeds that created a percussive rattle. Drummers kept a steady beat as the performers danced the whole distance. Residents came out to their balconies to watch.
Back inside at the community center, a little girl was captivated by the sight of one of the Aztec dancers.
More groups performed various dances including this dancer, Pamela Palacios, 13 years old, from Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl.
Panels of a mural, painted to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Dia de los Muertos San Rafael, were dedicated.
The celebration was still going strong when we left, with music and dancing. The final performance we saw was a mariachi band, Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano. It is a Bay Area band that is usually all female but had a few guys filling in.
The following afternoon, I visited my father’s grave and arranged some of the vegetables, fruits and flowers from our altar. It is still hard and I miss him but I celebrate and honor his life and memory and recognize death as part of the cycle and circle of life.
Thank you, Rem, for sharing your photos and thank you all for your visit.