Centro del Pueblo hosts third annual procession to honor ancestors
There are about 20 miles from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fortuna to the Labor Temple in Eureka. That’s the distance that members of Centro del Pueblo, the community, students and everyone in between will walk for the Dia de los Muertos Procession on Nov. 2.
The procession gives the community a way to honor ancestors, relatives and anyone else that has passed, in a different way than the traditional celebration that so many people know and love. Most importantly, the procession is an act of social justice where the members participating honor not only their loved ones but people who have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, people in detention camps, missing and murdered Indigenous women and so many more, according to Christina Lastra, a local Spanish teacher.
“Humboldt has a large white demographic, so you don’t see a very big Latinx presence because there’s fear in the streets,” Octavio Acosta said, a member of Centro del Pueblo. “We’ve been promoting these processions since 2017 in honor to represent our ancestors.”
The Dia de los Muertos Procession started spontaneously in 2017 after ICE raids that took place in Humboldt County, which created fear among the community. According to Brenda Pérez, an activist with Centro del Pueblo, members of the community, especially Latinx members, need more protection.
In the elections of November 2018, Measure K was a sanctuary initiative that passed.
“The procession started as a way to commemorate the dead and the passing of Measure K,” Christina Lastra said, who is helping with the preparations for the procession, and is an advocate for Indigenous peoples and locals. “Most importantly, we want to continue supporting and honoring Indigenous and migrant people of this area, we are commemorating those that have passed on.”
Lastra explained that although the procession itself is open to all, the preparation is exclusively for the Latinx community. Members who are undocumented are fearful of seeing ICE agents after watching raids happen all throughout Humboldt County in 2017, so being in large crowds can strike fear. The preparations allow community members to come together in a safe place.
Centro del Pueblo has been working alongside the Arcata Playhouse to host workshops every Sunday from Oct. 6-27, where Latinx members of the community can do what they can to help. The workshops also host volunteers that register with Centro del Pueblo, as well as students from the community. In these workshops, people have been able to participate in making traditional decorations for Dia de los Muertos, which includes sugar skulls, posters, t-shirts, and banners.
Some of the banners and posters will be to walk with, and the other decorations will adorn the Labor Temple in Eureka, where the procession ends. There will be a festival with a mariachi band composed of HSU students, as well as other kinds of music and singers, and food.
“There’s a sense of community in this walk, it’s beautiful seeing everyone come together,” Pérez said. “It’s a sacrifice, but there is healing with it. It’s also a mental thing, but doing it as a group is the most rewarding.”