Pasadena residents and members of the surrounding San Gabriel Valley celebrated Día de los Muertos this weekend with an exhibition and contest featuring dozens of altars created by local students.
Saturday’s contest and celebration of death was held at Cabreras Mexican Restaurant in Pasadena, where students of the TA’YER collective — a diverse group of Latino immigrants, day-laborers, parents, workers and other community members — created unique altars that were seen by all who came to enjoy live music, food, “papel picado” – brightly colored and cut-out paper streamers – painted skeletons and the traditional orange cempasuchil flowers, which are known as Mexican marigolds.
Each of the miniature altars depicted images and scenes of life with family and friends who have passed away.
Prior to the conclusion of Saturday’s event, audience members were able to cast their votes to decide the crowd’s favorite.
The event also featured live music and performances of “calaveritas,” traditional Mexican satirical poems that celebrate the living by suggesting that they’re dead. The comical poems often point out the virtues or shortcomings of people and are meant to be taken in the spirit of fun. Their message is the inevitability of death.
“Day of the Dead has particular grief and meaning this year,” said event organizer Fernando Castro of TA’YER. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted so many and especially ravaged communities of color. Through the use of art, culture, ritual and memory, these celebrations allow us to collectively grieve and honor those who have passed before us.”