Oakland’s Dia de los Muertos celebration memorializes death, joy
on November 7, 2014
Crowds came to the Fruitvale Village last Sunday to celebrate the sacred Latin American holiday Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
Different countries in Latin America celebrate Dia de los Muertos annually around the first Sunday of November. The holiday is one for skulls, food and altars, said Maggie Cachu of dance group Movimento Cultural Anahuac, which performed in the main plaza on Sunday afternoon. It is a way to show respect for those who have passed away, she said.
Colorful booths and altars, which were installed early that morning, lined the street as people shopped, ate and walked around. One could buy a papusa or a painting of a calavera, a skull. Several artists also offered face-painting of a laughing and terrifying skeleton, a figure immortalized by the Mexican engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada, who inspired artists like Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo. On the brisk morning, as the low November sun produced long shadows, several different groups danced and yelled to a war-like drum beat. Conch shells were blown, and groups of five, 10, or 35 dancers moved in unison. The skulls, rattles, feathers and flowers they wore symbolize the holiday’s themes of death and joy.
Classic cars, carnival rides and corporate sponsors were also the event, as were about a dozen vendors offering dishes like empanadas, burritos and roasted corn. One popular booth offered henna tattoos and sold little altars. The artist, Rachel-Anne Palacios, said people loved her work for being multicultural, since she draws from Mexican folk art and depictions of southeast Asian deities. People “want some thing to take with them…to remember something special,” she said as she set up her stall.
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