Día de los Muertos procession and celebration on Sunday, Oct. 30 in Arcata

Día de los Muertos is an important holiday in Latin America where families honor, remember and celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones by setting up ofrendas, or altars, in their honor. These ofrendas consist of personalized decorations of photos, marigolds, food, and more.

Haley Davis from Playhouse Arts setting up the tapete at the community ofrenda at the Jacoby’s Storehouse on Oct. 24, 2022| Photo by Celeste Sadler

“Día de los Muertos is very important—for all Latin people because it’s a big celebration,” said Magaly Cervantes, the community organizer for Centro del Pueblo (CP). “It’s like a party for us because we celebrate life and death. We celebrate our loves.”

On Sun., Oct. 30, there will be a Día de los Muertos celebration event from 4 to 7 p.m. hosted by multiple organizations: El Centro Académico Cultural, Centro del Pueblo, Los Bagels, Mainstreet Arcata and Playhouse Arts.

“It’s really essential that we build upon our community, within the–Latinx community and connect people together, and so I think there’s interest in that and that has been one of the factors for coordinating with the local community and organizing this event,” said operation and hospitality specialist at El Centro, Gio Guerrero.

The event is happening in two parts. The first is the procession and the second is the celebration. The procession will start at 4 p.m. in the Gutswurrak Student Activity Center at CPH at 4:30 p.m. and will stop at El Jardín Santuario where Centro del Pueblo will give the procession an introduction to what they do within the space. This presentation will last around 20 minutes and afterwards, the procession will continue on to Los Bagels.

The celebration will begin at 5 p.m. at the Los Bagels parking lot and in the street. Los Bagels will be providing Pan de Muerto and guests will be able to decorate their own. Here, there will also be a community street mural with CP. Arcata Playhouse will be providing giant puppets. There will also be performances by Danza Azteca, Ballet Folklórico de Humboldt and Mariachi de Humboldt. These performances will be from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.

The community ofrenda at the Jacoby’s Storehouse on Oct 24, 2022 | Photo by Celeste Sadler

Dennis Rael, a founder of Los Bagels, has incorporated Día de los Muertos into Los Bagels culture for the past 30 years. In the beginning, there was little activity with Día de los Muertos in general in Humboldt County. As the years went by, Rael began trying to coordinate activities with Latino groups and organizations.

“One of the things that was important for me with the celebration with Día de los Muertos is to not only have a space for the Latino population and have them be able to honor that space, but also as an educational tool for people who are not familiar with Día de los Muertos and for them to get an insight to that,” Rael said. “To me it’s a great cultural exchange and being someone who grew up with you know, mixed heritage: Latino and Jewish. It’s important to share both of those cultures.”

Since 2017, CP has strongly encouraged the celebration of Día de los Muertos in Humboldt county, they feel that it is important to revitalize their culture here.

“They invited us to lead the celebration in Arcata three years ago to have this sense of knowledge of the tradition because even if Los Bagels have been celebrating a long time ago, they acknowledge that this party was more as aesthetic performance– so that’s why they reach out and that is why we have been collaborating.” said Brenda Perez the program director at Centro del Pueblo. “To bring that knowledge and to share what we know from generations.”

Additionally, Mariachi de Humboldt will be hosting a concert before the Día de los Muertos celebration. It will be at the Fulkerson Recital Hall at 2 p.m. on Oct. 30. The cost of tickets are: $10 for general admission, $5 for children and free for CPH students with ID.

On Nov. 5 in Eureka, Centro del Pueblo will be holding a conversation about the meaning of an ofrenda, of “personajes” like La Catrina and what they mean, and songs about Día de los Muertos. This discussion will give a lot more information on the cultural significance of Día de los Muertos and its customs.

For more information on the celebration go to Centro de Pueblo’s Instagram @centrodelpueblo.

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