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Santa Monica to Observe Dia de Los Muertos

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

October 26, 2013--Translated, Dia de Los Muertos means Day of the Dead, but the holiday on November 1 – with its festivals and lively celebrations – aims for the opposite of morbid.

The Mexican holiday falls around the time of Halloween in the United States, and both holidays have ancient roots going back thousands of years. But while Halloween is intended as a fun way of mocking death and our fear of it, Dia de los Muertos is meant to show respect for deceased family and friends.

In that vein, the City of Santa Monica will host its fourth annual Day of the Dead celebration Sunday, November 1, at Woodlawn Cemetery, 1847 14th Street, Santa Monica, from 1 to 4 p.m.

“The family-friendly event focuses on the traditions that are part of this celebration of life and death and offers a variety of ways for participants to discover the meaning, philosophy and history of the day,” a City announcement said.

Santa Monica's free community celebration will start with a traditional opening Dia de Los Muertos procession and ceremonial blessing, led by Ketzaliztli dancers.

The event will also feature Conjunto Jardin performing the son jarocho music of Veracruz, Mexico, and the all-female stringed mariachi group Las Colibri.

Storyteller Antonio Sacre will share Day of the Dead-inspired folk tales, myths, legends and personal stories, in both English and Spanish.

Dia de Los Muertos is very ancient pre-Hispanic, pre-Christian tradition that traces it roots among the people of West Mexico, who customarily buried their dead in underground shaft tombs as deep as 68 feet, according to National Geographic and several academia sources.

Dr. Alison Hall, a lecturer in anthropology and museum studies at the University of Central Arkansas, says the ancient Mexican people “believed in the continuation of the soul after death in an underworld, and their practice was to 'feed the dead' with necessities for their afterlife.”

People believed the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, so Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties and activities the dead enjoyed in life, according to National Geographic.

“Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community,” the publication's website said. “On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.”

One of the most iconic symbols of the Day of the Dead is the calavera, which means skull in Spanish.  In the weeks leading up to the festival, sugar skulls are sold in markets all over Mexico.

Santa Monica's celebration will pick up on that tradition with crafts workshops, including offerings for loved ones who have passed, calavera masks and communal memory wall where stories of loved ones can be added.

La Catrina, the satirical and elegant female skeleton, will make a special guest appearance, and             

a documentary on how families in a small town in Mexico prepare for the holiday will screen throughout the day, event organizers said.

Independent radio journalist and DJ, Betto Arcos will emcee the event and share his own Dia de Los Muertos stories and memories, organizers said. Fresh tamales, tacos, “pan de muerto” (a type of sweet roll) and “aguas frescas” (fruit-infused water) will be available for purchase.

Free parking will be available at the Santa Monica College lot between 16th and 17th streets on Pico Boulevard, as well as along 14th Street. A shuttle service will run between the SMC Lot to the cemetery entrance between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m.

For more information call 310-458-8688.

In a separate event, Pico Branch Library, 2201 Pico Boulevard, will hold a Dia de los Muertos Mini Story and Crafts Fest on Friday, October 30, at 3:30 p.m., for children ages 5 and older.

For more information, call 310-458-8684.

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