MainStreet Oceanside is producing its Seventh Annual Día de los Muertos Festival on Sunday, October 28. This celebration is becoming one of the largest Día celebrations in the U.S.
Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is Mexico’s ancient tradition of celebrating the lives of deceased loved ones. It features elaborate ofrendas or altars, whimsical skeletons and sugar candy skulls that mock death to release the fear and grief about death and to celebrate those who shared their lives with us. As well as the traditional ofrendas, there will be street entertainers, music, art, and a children’s area. Día merchandise will be offered for sale (including bread of the dead), along with traditional food and dishes from other cultures.
Día de los Muertos is often confused with Halloween, but Día provides a very different flavor and a different view of the tension between life and death. Día is a beautiful tradition that has its roots in the pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and Central America. The skeletons of Día are whimsical rather than scary. They remind us that we are all going to die someday so that we can make the best of our lives.
In contemporary Mexico, Day of the Dead is a time when families visit the graves of their relatives, cleaning the sites and arranging fresh flowers, bringing the deceased’s favorite foods, and playing music. Many immigrants, especially Mexico’s Oaxacan community, have brought those traditions with them. And they are now sharing them with everyone by participating in Día de los Muertos Festivals in the U.S.
In Oceanside the traditional ofrendas will be built by Oaxacan families from the area as well as from Michoacan’s tradition. In addition, artists from The International University in Cuernavaca, Mexico, as well as local students and families will build modern-day ofrendas. Professor Carlos von Son from Palomar and MiraCosta Colleges will conduct tours of the displays and will explain the historic context as well as the modern adaptation of the celebration of Día in the United States.
Several artists will join the event this year to display their interpretations of the cycle of life and death. The chalk cemetery, which strikes a cord with both Mexican and non-Mexican families every year, will give everyone a chance to remember a loved one in a graphic, participatory way. Every year 30,000 marigolds are used to decorate the street and the ofrendas. Once again Mike Mellano of Mellano and Company is helping to produce the striking flowers for this year’s festival.
People of other cultures are learning that Día is a celebration of life that speaks to everyone who has lost somebody. Some people attend because they are curious and others because they want to have a good time. “Whatever the reason” said Kim Heim, executive director of MainStreet Oceanside, “we are happy to see so much cultural diversity in one place to celebrate life. And we invite everyone to join us on Sunday, October 28, downtown Oceanside, Pier View Way, east of Coast Highway, 10 AM 4 PM.”