Community celebrates Dia de los Muertos


Costumed locals, their faces painted like skulls, posed for pictures at Sunday’s Dia de los Muertos.

Madison Dearie, staff writer and photographer, foregin correspondent

For some cultures, death is viewed not as a mournful passing, but as moving into another state of being. In Latin American culture, the belief is that only a thin veil exists between the living and the dead: a veil pulled back once a year during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

In Oceanside, Day of the Dead was celebrated this year on Sunday, Oct. 30 in a large festival at the San Luis Rey Mission.  Populating the event was 75 vendor booths, chalk alters and more than 20,000 people.

Costumed children, adults with faces painted like skulls as well as priests and priestesses walked through the festival grounds.

“We did an ancient Aztec ceremony this morning and then a dance for the god of death. Now we are blessing people in need of guidance,” Cedma Navarro said.

Which she did using what looked like a steaming mug, filled with sage and other herbs and dressed in the traditional feathered garb.

This two-day celebration, which usually takes place on Nov. 1, (in Catholicism All Saints’ Day) and Nov. 2, (All Souls’ Day) is a chance for people to commune with those they have lost. In honor of the deceased’s return to the world of the living, families create altars in their remembrance. On these, they place offerings of photographs, incense, candles, favorite foods or trinkets and always the flower of the dead, the marigold.

Colorfully decorated skulls made of sugar as well as dressed up toy skeletons and artworks are popular. On Sunday, pan de muerto, sugary bread made into the shapes of people was served, celebrants wore skull masks and everyone was encouraged to dance.

What stood out this year, though, at Oceanside’s 11th annual Day of the Dead festival, were the altars built in the trunks of the classic cars belonging to the members of the Siempre Car Club.

Becky Galan’s classic car was decorated with her husband’s favorite things.

“This is for my husband, Arturo. He passed away June 23 of this year from leukemia. This is to honor him,” Galan said.

Each altar’s decorations told a story of a lost loved one. Some were decorated with toys left for the “los angelitos” or “little angels.”

Overall, the atmosphere was one of remembrance and fun, because in this culture, that is how death is supposed to be viewed.