La Llorona – that mythical being from Latin American legends who is said to have drowned her kids in a fit of rage over a cheating husband – was not crying, but instead sweating while taking part in the City of San Fernando’s Día de los Muertos 5K Individual Race on Saturday, Nov. 2.
And there was no cracking of bones as a family of Calacas took part in the Relay Race.
This and a menagerie of Catrinas and Calacas – young and old – were seen at the sixth edition of the event sponsored by Providence Holy Cross. More than 500 participants gathered at San Fernando Recreation Park for the music and cultural event that featured altars set along the running path to honor family and loved ones.
La Llorona was 27-year-old Noemi Tovar, who wore a white Mexican indigenous dress, a whitened-face covered by a veil and a bouquet of flowers to pay homage to one of the most significant beings in the folklore of the dead.
“She should be remembered because she’s part of our culture,” said the San Fernando High School teacher.
This was Tovar’s second Dia de los Muertos race in the same number of weeks. She had participated in the Placita Olvera event a week earlier, but had reserved the special outfit for the San Fernando race. Tovar said she was inspired by the Dia de los Muertos commemoration, which she notes is very important.
“It’s the day we get to remember our loved ones. But it’s not to be scared or sad, but remember somebody’s life and when they used to be alive,” the Pacoima resident said.
The Calacas were none other than Sergio Rodriguez, his brother Javier and his grandkids, Tiffany and Sergio, who together were taking part in the relay race for the first time.
Their black outfits were decorated with bones, a bow-tie and top hats, appropriately packaged with a painted Calaca face.
“This is the fitting (attire) for this race. You have to come according to the race theme,” Sergio said.
The older brothers, ages 60 and 58, both enjoy running and believe it’s important to teach the grandkids about the benefits of being active.
“It’s good for the physical and mental health,” Javier said.
The early, chilly morning temperatures did not keep the kids, parents and grandparents from pounding the pavement around and inside San Fernando Recreation Park.
“You keep coming back, so we’re going to keep bringing it back,” San Fernando Councilmember Robert Gonzales told the crowd before the start of the 5K individual race.
“These are people concerned about their health and being in good shape,” added Mayor Joel Fajardo.
Bernie Klein, CEO of Providence Holy Cross, said the hospital’s mission is “to help the community, and I can’t think of a better way than to sponsor this race.”
The race has now become a tradition for many runners who often wear outfits that mix sneakers and running gear with Día de los Muertos costumes and makeup.
One group of women — Jackie Henriquez, Ana Carrillo, Elvira Aragon and Tania Mota from the Balboa Park Runners — were dressed in Día de los Muertos attire along with tutus.
“We like to work out, we run, we hike,” Carrillo said. Día de los Muertos is part of our culture, and a celebration we have to keep alive.”
“We love coming here. It’s all just for fun and having a good time,” she added.
But there was also a competition, and this year’s 5K individual race winner was John Cusick, 27, who crossed the finish line in 16:44. A track coach at Los Angeles Mission College and Northridge Academy High School, the svelte Cusick says he only does a couple of 5K races a year, but participates in 3-6 track meets annually.
Some of his students were also winners, taking first place in the 5K Relay Race. That team was comprised of Antonio Gutierrez, Nataly Galicia and Kieran Burmester.
While the central focus of the day was the individual and relay races, the elaborate and colorful altars set up along the park’s running path were also an important part of the event. After all, it’s a tradition that honors those who have left this earth, but whose souls and lives continue to thrive in their loved ones’ hearts, and who honor them by setting out their favorite foods, drinks and mementos as they make their passage back from the great beyond to this realm.
Like La Llorona from this race, there is nothing to cry about, but much to celebrate.