EL CENTRO – Mexican journalist and illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913), was honored Wednesday evening with a four-tier altar during the city of El Centro’s Dia de Los Muertos Celebration at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
“In the late 1800s, Posada was known for his satirical and politically acute calaveras,” explained Luis Delgado, creator of the altar. “As a journalist, Posada was unable to write about political issues, therefore he would express it by illustrating skulls. La Catrina (sugar skull) was his creation, however he never received credit for it.”
Derived from the Spanish word for “skulls,” the calaveras were illustrations featuring skeletons which would, after Posada’s death, become closely associated with the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated throughout the Mexico, November 1 and 2, particularly in the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world in other cultures.
“This is our second annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration, and I am very happy with today’s turnout,” said Marcela Miranda-Silva, event coordinator. “This celebration if for the people in the Imperial Valley.”
Wednesday’s event brought an attendance of hundreds, some wearing beautifully colorful costumes and spectacular flowered crowns and hats, representing La Catrina (Dapper Skeleton), while some men wore suits and sugar skull makeup representing El Catrin (gentlemen).
“I love this holiday,” said Jazmin Castro, one of the attendees. “It’s a day to remember our loved ones in a happy and special way with music, food and dance.”
Those who attended enjoyed delicious traditional food including tamales, tacos, chocolate de holla, pastries and the traditional pan de muerto.
“We need to continue this tradition even if we are in the United States,” said Maria Alcala, an El Centro resident. “This is part of our culture. We need to teach our children the true meaning so they can continue the tradition. I am very happy the city is acknowledging our Mexican traditions and giving us the opportunity to celebrate it in public, and not just in our homes.”
Mexican Consul Carlos Flores Vizcarra spoke at the event, explaining the celebration and the history.
Guests enjoyed live music, cultural Indian Aztec Dancers, and face painting for those who dared look like La Catrina.
Beautiful artwork, wreaths and altars decorated the venue, and for those who couldn’t resist, the decorations were for sale at an affordable cost.
Dia De Muertos coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day, and some local people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
Celebrators 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. According to traditional legend, 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. Many families clean tombs, play cards, listen to music and reminisce about their loved ones.
Day of the Dead is becoming popular throughout the U.S., either giving people a way to celebrate and honor the dead, or because of the fascination with its mysticism.