Dia De Los Muertos traditions brings communities together

The+altar+of+love+is+displayed+at+the+Marigold+Project%27s+online%2C+live+broadcast.

Rosa De Anda

The altar of love is displayed at the Marigold Project’s online, live broadcast.

Dia De Los Muertos became an opportunity for families to reunite and celebrate life, as organizations found innovative ways to host the annual festivities online.

Traditionally, Dia De Los Muertos is a time to honor loved ones and connect with other people. Yet, as county-wide shutdowns continue, groups like Casa Circulo Cultural and the Marigold Project have found ways to host online Dia De Los Muertos events.

Previously, Casa Circulo Cultural featured vendors, day of the dead merchandise, and indoor altar competitions. Starting with a small crowd of 200 people indoors, they progressed to about 10,000 people. This year, they celebrated Dia De Los Muertos for their 10th time in Redwood City, while the Marigold Project presented its 29th annual Festival of Altars.

“Our goal is to gather the community and provide [everyone] with a space to mourn,” Rosa De Anda, the director of the Marigold Project online event, said. 

Iris Merrill, a volunteer teacher at Casa Circulo Cultural, expressed a similar sentiment. Touching on the millions of deaths due to COVID-19, Merill believes that Dia De Los Muertos, even online, is an opportunity for families to mourn.

“By setting up something for the people that have passed, it gives others a little bit of closure because they didn’t have the opportunity to be with their loved ones at the hospital like you normally would,” Merill said.

But, even without losing a loved one, many people have experienced stress during the quarantine. 

“So much has happened since we have been in shelter-in-place,” Gil Mendez, the designer of the air altar for the Marigold Project, said. “We lost John Lewis, RBG, […] There was a flashpoint where we learned about George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and Breona Taylor. […] Learning about all the deaths as a result

Since the shelter-in-place order, Gil Mendez started folding paper cranes, which he incorporated into his air altar.

of COVID-19, and being in fear for our own lives.”

Dia De Los Muertos gives people time to face their grief and turn it into a positive; instead of focusing on the ones lost, Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of the living.

“We are not celebrating the dead; we are celebrating the life before that. The dead are important because when you are alive, you will understand that you will have just a moment to live your life,” Veronica Escamez, the director of Casa Circulo Cultural, said. “Your family will always have you in your mind, so you will never die.”

Previously, the Marigold Project’s in-person celebration featured a procession and five altars: air, fire, water, earth, and love. However, this year, the procession was broadcasted online, but the altars and the rest of the event remained the same.

“We created a tape of honoring air, fire, water, earth, love, and all ages of ancestors that have died this year,” De Anda said. 

Casa Circulo Cultural also found a way to host a virtual event by creating a live webinar presentation and a virtual event for people to tune into.

“We did a virtual event that was transmitted on Sunday for three and a half hours. We got 3,800 attendees at the live event,” Escamez said. 

Overall, Casa Circulo Cultural and the Marigold Project received a large turnout, especially considering the lack of in-person activities. The Dia De Los Muertos events allowed people to connect again and celebrate being alive.

“When you feel connected to the people who may not be in your immediate circle of the quarantine, it allows you to sort of breathe a little better. It allows you to feel like you’re not as confined,” Mendez said. 

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