Riverside celebrates the dead

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By Rafael Rodriguez / Staff Writer

Gone but not forgotten (Kathryn Shepherd / Staff Photographer)

By Rafael Rodriguez / Staff Writer

The Day of the Dead is a day of remembrance for those who have passed on, but Downtown Riverside’s celebration of the event was anything but dead.

Called Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, the Mexican holiday is widely celebrated, its influence expanding to countries throughout the world, including the U.S.

During the event, families put up alters and “ofrendas” or offerings to those who have deceased in hopes that their departed loved ones will make an appearance to the family.

While this day does include lots of mourning, it is also a festival.

Many families often celebrate this day by having some good laughs of memories brought up by the celebration while others could spend it remembering their loved ones’ past life and achievements.

Many historians believe that this day can be traced back to the Aztecs, where they would celebrate all month long and offer prayers to their god “The Lady of the Dead” who resembles a “Catrina,” a skeleton of an upper-class woman.

Dia de los Muertos is now often split into two days, celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2.

The first is used to remember the little children or infants, called “los Angelitos” who lost their lives and the other day is used for remembering adults.

On their graves or alters, family members will offer the deceased various gifts such as their favorite food, toys, or even liquor.

These gifts show characteristics of the person they represent, and are often placed in the hopes of attracting their spirits to visit the shrine and, in turn, the family.

Food on the alters can be eaten, as it is believed the soul of the departed has taken and eaten the essence of food, but in return the person alive is believed not to get any nutritional value from it.

These gifts are also there to help the spirits by giving them some refreshments and rest on their journey in the afterlife

Other parts of the celebration often include dancing, but with shells, or other noisy objects.

This is done in hopes that the noise will not only wake up the souls of the dead, but also help lure them to the festivities.

Many of the above traditions were seen in Downtown Riverside’s Day of the Dead celebration.

There were many people with their faces painted as skulls and carrying signs in honor of the dead.

Others were fully dressed in entire outfits, such as a bride and groom that really helped show what this holiday was about.

There were also concerts and many food vendors who filled the air with the aroma of many Mexican and Mexican-American delicacies such as churros, tacos, and tamales that surely caused mouths to water.

At other vendors, people could get their faces painted as aforementioned skulls, or buy little knickknacks that would help others remember this day.

There were also many street performers, both professional and amateur, that showed their spirit by dancing, posing for pictures and painting faces of bystanders.

But above all the day was about the remembrance of past loved ones.

Up by the concert area, where people danced to the music, were shrines of families with pictures and decorations that represented the departed.

It was actually quite eerie, but the families that were there were very eager to talk about the people who the shrine represented.

It was a real reminder of what the day is about, celebrating the past lives of families and loved ones.

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