Tradition ran through the streets of Downtown San Pedro as the community gathered for a celebration of life on Sunday, Oct. 23.
Sixth Street was transformed into a center of music and joy as the city of San Pedro hosted its 10th annual Dia de Los Muertos festival. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional holiday widely celebrated in the first week of November. For many, this holiday is a reminder of the ones we’ve lost and the lives they lived.
“Unfortunately, this year we did lose my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law. So, this dress is dedicated to [them],” said Teresa Miramontes as she described the dress she created out of recycled material for Dia de los Muertos.
The Miramontes family joins this event every year, and each year, Teresa Miramontes and her daughter, Tesabella, steal the show with fascinating designs.
“My interpretation this year is a feather pillow,” Teresa said in between tears. “Every time we lose a loved one, we lose a feather from the pillow. Our pillow will never be the same. Our hearts will never be the same.”
The red feathers on the dress, inspired by La Catrina, have the names of those who passed away in her family, as well as family friends.
Upon entry, visitors were able to see a display of altars lined against the walls as guests shared their “ofrendas” to the public in an altar contest hosted by the festival. For the Guerrero family, this was an opportunity to share how they honor their family and friends.
“It’s cool that we’re able to do it like this because now people can see our loved ones and we can share our loved ones with the rest of the community,” Jose Guerrero said. “We want to remember our loved ones, you know, and if it’s one special day for them, then we’re going to go all out and do what we can for them.”
Altars are a core piece of the holiday. Oftentimes, altars are decorated with calaveras, pan dulce and more offerings for the dead as they make their way home for that special family reunion on the night of Día de Los Muertos. However, many like the Guerrero family fear that this tradition is being lost.
“The way society is going now, a lot of kids are losing this,” Guerrero said. “They are losing our traditions, what our great-great grandparents and our ancestors brought. We’re losing it. We want to continue doing this to give back to our community, give back to our kids, and give back to our ancestors and our traditions and keep it alive.”
It is because of this that Senior Communications Director of the Port of Los Angeles, Arley Baker, felt the need to organize events like these.
“I think from the start we observed that it is a sacred holiday for our citizens from Mexico and the larger, broader Latino community,” Baker said. “It started as an idea 10 years ago. We saw a nice opportunity to be able to bring people here and honor Día in a safe, very family-oriented environment.”
Throughout the day, several performances were put on by a live DJ, mariachi groups and Folklorico dance groups such as Neiya Arts, a contemporary Folklorico group based out of Carson, California.
Neiya Arts combines the traditional Folklorico dance style with a variety of other genres to create visually appealing and technically challenging performances. Delilah Vasquez Real, the director of Neiya Arts, shared how the group adds a contemporary flair to the traditional Folklorico genre through their costumes.
“Because we are a contemporary Folklorico group, the base and the roots of it, you know, you have to research as far as mambo, the Cuban-African influence of it, the movement in New York in the 1950s and some of the costuming that went on in Hollywood once it came over to LA. It’s taking that and adding a twist to it,” Real said. “For La Bruja, the organza skirts are actually from Sotavento. They used to be white, and I dyed them black which give it that dirty, gray, spooky effect.”
The entire festival was filled with joy and laughter, music and the smell of various foods from vendors. The event ended in the evening after a special performance from the two-time Grammy award winning Mariachi Divas.
Each year, San Pedro continues to grow a welcoming sense of community and belonging. “This is a town with a lot of deep roots. You feel at home here,” Baker notes.