Community festivals for Dia de los Muertos were held in the City of San Fernando, Pacoima and Canoga Park last weekend. The indigenous tradition is now widely celebrated but has been celebrated in the valley for many years.
The event in the City of San Fernando began with a mile run with over 600 participants, which continues the quest to have a healthy city. In 2014, the local City Council voted on an initiative to implement a “Healthy San Fernando” campaign. While the crowd during the event was not as large as in previous years because of a change in location, local residents adjusted to it. The event was moved from San Fernando Recreation Park to an LA County parking lot to accommodate an infiltration project still underway at the park.
The city with an abundance of artists showcased its local musicians that included Holmes Middle School Mariachi Aguilas, Juan Flautista Latin Band and Master Mariachi Apprentice Program as well as Ballet Folklorico Ollin, Grupo Folklorico Huitzillin, and Kalpulli Teotlalli Tepeyollotl danzantes who ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens. At the center of the event were the altars that were blessed with the burning of copal and set up by residents who honored their loved ones. Mayra Flores, who is Salvadoran, participated for the first time.
“I never built an altar before, but I really like this tradition and I want to continue to do it,” she said. For many, it was their first time participating in the cultural event. Kids had their faces painted, enjoyed a puppet show and made puppets of their own at the kids’ table.
The Ayala family built their altar in tribute to the La Raza Unida party with a theme to honor Chicano heroes that have passed. Photos of Chicano heroes who came from Mexico such as Lucio Cabanas, Genaro Vasquez Rojas, and Joaquin Murietta were featured on the altar. The focus of the ofrenda was to show that Mexicans are native to the US and acknowledged a history that many attendees were unaware.
“Unfortunately a lot of them [children] don’t know their history. But I think it is up to us to be putting up things like this [ofrendas]. It is up to the city leaders to promote things like this. That we are on Chicano land and that we do have a history and that we should be acknowledged,” said Estela Ayala.
La Raza Unida, a noted third party, was headquartered in the City of San Fernando and was the center of political organizing.
In Pacoima, the Dia de los Muertos event stretched over four blocks displaying large sized Calacas set up throughout the festival. Pacoima, known for its mural art, had muralists, including Levi Ponce, sign posters.
Internationally renowned Mariachi Los Camperos played at the Pacoima event. “There is nothing like playing in your own hometown,” said harpist Sergio “Checo” Alonso.
In Canoga Park, booths lined the street along Sherman Way and included a classic car show.
While the day was warm, it didn’t affect the positive spirits.