24th annual Día de Los Muertos altar festival celebrated in the Mission District
People gather from all over the bay with their yellow and orange marigold flowers, special meals, pictures and festive decorations to the annual Día de Los Muertos altar viewing in San Francisco’s Mission District.
On Friday, Nov. 2, people arrived at Garfield Square for the annual Día de Los Muertos festival with the intention of reuniting with their ancestors as a community.
“I started this event because we were organizing the procession and a lot of energy builds up during the precession and there was no place to go and sit with the ancestors longer, so we decided to have a festival of altars,” said Rosa De Anda, the founder of the event. De Anda started the event 24 years ago with the intention of sharing a spiritual expression to make people understand that “we are the future ancestors.”
What makes this event special is all the different types of cultures mixed together in a safe and respectful community that does not exclude anyone. There is no set of rules or customs that should be followed; everyone picks a spot in the park and starts creating their own altar.
People have attended this event for a long time, such as Luis Vasquez Gomez, ho has been attending this event for six years. Vasquez likes to create a special art piece made with flowers, rocks and dirt, representing a piece of earth.
This year, Vasquez decided to re-create the woman shaman to illustrate the importance women have in our society.
“Women are the ones who have always healed us, this is just a way to honor them,” Vasquez said. “Some think about the Shaman Woman as a witch, but she was the one who saves us.”
Organizers of the event walked around the park with bells to signify the ceremony was starting.
The community assembled in a circle with the intention of not having hierarchies among them, said Chhoti Maa, an organizer of the event. “A lot of traditions have survived because of the resilience of our people,” Maa said. “We open our arms for some of the people that are here. Please remember that and honor it; this is not a costume or a game, this is very serious the work that each and every one has to do. You must honor your ancestors.”
As the ceremony continued, there were several parts of the ceremony in which people open the doors of each altar with different meanings. There were altars that represented the elders, children, water, fire, and earth. By the end of the ceremony, people walked around the different altars and got to know one another before the procession, which is a walking prayer for our ancestors.
This event has become a San Franciscan tradition for many people and has kept its relevance alive by connecting people to their roots.
Sister Hera Sees Candy of the San Francisco house of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence explained that the altars are a beautiful offering that comes from the Hispanic-Latino community and it’s something that is not part of the western European-based culture.
“To be able to come together in the community and celebrate our dead together is bounding,” Sister Hera Sees Candy said. “It makes us realize that underneath we are skulls.”