City of San Fernando Holds Annual Dia de los Muertos Event

Many Dia de los Muertos events have already taken place. But for the organizers of San Fernando’s event, tradition is important.

The City of San Fernando will host its annual Dia de los Mertos celebration on Sunday, Nov. 1.

“Dia de los Muertos should be held on all Saints and all Souls day,” said Javier Verdin, a folklorista originally from Nayarit, Mexico and the co-founder of Ballet Folklorico Ollin. He has been involved in cultural events in the Northeast San Fernando Valley for the past 30 years.

“I think what sets our event apart is that we are truly a community event and that’s the way we want to keep it. We want the whole family to participate,” he said.

Dia de los Muertos is a very personal expression that is pre-Hispanic, steeped in indigenous spiritual traditions thousands of years old that honors loved ones, and understands that death is a natural cycle of life.

“The emphasis for Dia de los Muertos should remain on the meaningful intention and the building of the altares, honoring our ante pasados [ancestors] or for people that have touched our lives, and we share this experience with our family and friends,” Verdin said.

There will also be a community altar available for people to add items that are significant to them. The locally based Aztec dance group, Danzantes Mexica Cuauhtemoc will have a ceremony and procession that will pass by each altar.

Last year, Verdin asked local artist Lalo Garcia to create artwork backdrops for the stage area, which quite unexpectedly, he was amused to find, became a “step and repeat.”

“We brought out just one of Lalo’s art panels that reflected Dia de los Muertos and people loved it. We didn’t anticipate that the artwork itself would take center stage,” Verdin said.

But between the entertainment on stage, people one right after another, took turns posing for photos in front of Garcia’s artwork.

“This year, we will be hanging an additional panel of art he created that is equally impressive,” Verdin said.

In addition to the music entertainment, artist Juliana Martinez — in association with the local nonprofit organization, Bienestar — will facilitate a chalk art memorial titled “Recuerdos con Respeto,” dedicated to those who have died from HIV Aids and related illnesses.

Martinez has worked with previous cities as a mosaic artist and has been involved with chalk art festivals and art displays in Pasadena and Canoga Park. It will be her first time in the City of San Fernando. She said she is “very pleased” that she has received so much support.

“I would really like to commend Virginia Diediker from the city’s recreational park and cultural affairs department, and [the] San Fernando Mayor’s office. I’ve never had anyone call me before to ask, ‘is there anything you need?’” Martinez said.

“Chalk artists are coming from areas throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and other cities quite a distance away who are traveling to help us create this chalk art memorial, which will include a large series of portraits of those who have passed away as a result of HIV/AIDS. We will also have local high school students who will participate.”

Martinez said some of the participating students are members of a LGBT club at their school. The chalk artists will begin creating their work at 8 a.m. And the public is encouraged to watch.

There will be free activities and entertainment that include a children’s workshop, free face painting, a JAM session sponsored by the Ford Theater, Spoken Word, music and dance performances by Ballet Folklorico Ollin, participation from Tia Chucha’s, Centro Cultural, the El Nido Family Center, and the San Fernando Cultural Arts Collective.

The City of San Fernando Dia de Los Muertos event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Chalk artists will begin to create their work beginning at 8 a.m. at San Fernando Recreation Park, located at 208 Park Avenue in the City of San Fernando. This free event is open to all ages. For more information, call (818) 898-1290.