On the day after Halloween, people gathered all over the Coachella Valley at various events to celebrate Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.
One of the bigger holidays celebrated in hispanic culture, the holiday first started in Mexico and later spread into Latin America to remember loved ones who have passed away.
“We are the ones that are now alive celebrating their lives, them having lived and shared their life with us,” said Olivia Chumacero. She honored her ancestors holding a ceremony at sunrise at Rancho Las Flores Park in Coachella, which is Cahuilla Tribal land. “I believe it’s important to us so we can remember, so that we have a place and actually do an offering,” Chumacero said.
The park was also the place where one of the bigger Day of the Dead events took place Saturday with the first ‘Dia de los Muertos USA.’ The festival included cultural art, altar installations, numerous food carts, and bands from different Spanish music genres for people in the community to enjoy. Event organizers say more than 25,000 people were expected to attend.
“We have a diversity of different races here in the valley and then with this being here dead center I think that its going to bring a lot of people so we can celebrate,” said Tony Rodriguez, who attended the event to celebrate the holiday.
One of the day’s biggest traditions are the installation of the altar or in Spanish ‘ofrenda’, where families place a picture of a loved one and honor them with candles, food, even music.
“You play their favorite music, you bring a mariachi or a trio and you celebrate their life and at the same time you celebrate your life with them,” said Rodri J. Rodriguez, event organizer for ‘Dia de los Muertos USA’.
“Everything that you see on the ofrenda is placed there symbolically to remember, men, women, children, babies,” said Chumacero.
Others gathered at Coachella City Hall for the second annual ‘Run with Los Muertos 5K’ where participants ran in celebration of a loved one who’s passed away.
Jesus Vigil Torres ran in honor of his father who died when he was just 4-years-old. “I don’t remember much about him but I would say ‘Dad, I love you, this is for you,'”.
Participants wore costumes or t-shirts that honored their loved ones, as well as glow-in-the-dark gear. The event also included food vendors, live music, a beer garden and altar displays.
Other celebrations were held throughout the entire valley and each year more and more events are taking place to mark the day. Tony Rodriguez says he’s proud of his culture and how it’s reaching other communities.
“It has grown and its reaching places that I don’t think it’s reached before and this is a prime example of that,” Rodriguez said.