EL CENTRO – A festively decorated altar adorned the Old Post Office Pavilion during the first annual Dia De Muertos celebration hosted by the City of El Centro and the Mexican Consulate in Calexico Thursday evening.
Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, November 1 & 2, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world in other cultures.
“I had wanted to bring Dia De Muertos to the Imperial Valley since my parents are from Guadalajara, Jalisco, and every year I celebrate Dia De Muertos outside of Imperial County. I wanted to share the culture and enrichment that it has,” said Marcela Miranda-Silva, event coordinator.
Wearing beautifully colorful costumes and spectacular flowered crowns, women represented La Catrina (Dapper Skeleton) while men wore suits and sugar skull makeup representing El Catrin (gentlemen).
“In my country, Sinaloa, Mexico, Dia De Muertos is very popular and it is a tradition to celebrate and pass on to our children the beliefs of this celebration,” said Carmen Valdez, volunteer.
Those who attended enjoyed delicious traditional food for this celebration like mole, chocolate de holla, pastries and the traditional pan de muerto.
The purpose was to develop intercultural understanding of Mexican heritage for the community, with historical teachings of the Dia de Muertos to honor dead ancestries and loved ones.
Consul Carlos Flores Vizcarra spoke explaining the celebration and the history.
“The City of El Centro has been recognized for bringing innovative events to the Valley,” said Efrain Silva, Mayor, city of El Centro.
Guests enjoyed live music by Hector Canseco and Liz Avila, cultural Indian Aztec Dancers, and face painting for those who dared look like La Catrina.
“Every year we hope this event becomes bigger and that more people attend,” said Valdez-Silva
Beautiful artwork and wreaths decorated the venue, and for those who couldn’t resist, the decorations were for sale at an affordable cost.
“This culture is so rich and the traditions are simply breathtaking. The amount of time people put in creating an altar and cooking the food is simply phenomenal,” said Pam Garrett.
Dia De Muertos coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, some local people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.
Beautiful altars (ofrendas) offer sugar skulls, candles, flowers, fruit, food and Day-of-the Dead breads called pan de muerto. The altar is said to supply abundant food, bottles of soda, hot cocoa and water for the weary spirits. Toys and candies are left for the angelitos, and cigarettes and tequila or mescal are offered to the adult spirits.
It is believed that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families.
On the afternoon of November 2, the ofrendas (offerings) are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to music and reminisce about their loved ones.
Day of the Dead is becoming popular in the U.S., either giving people a way to celebrate and honor the dead, or because of the fascination with its mysticism.