Day of the Dead is alive and well in SoCal


by Michael Valencia

Dia De Los Muertos “Ofrenda”

Día De Los Muertos has a unique history dating back to the pre-Colombian cultures of Mesoamerica. It is an observance that honors the dead. The celebration has evolved since then picking up elements from Catholic traditions to contemporary culture and today is one of the most unique fall festivities around.

It’s no secret that Southern California has a strong connection to the Mexican culture. The influences are on display in the food, fashion, art, music, architecture, and traditions. After all, California used to be a part of Mexico. Día De Los Muertos is included in that influence.  From local governments, community organizations, businesses and families Día De Los Muertos is widely celebrated throughout the region.  

During the celebration souls from the afterlife are welcomed back to our plane to celebrate their lives. Altars called “Ofrendas” are set up and decorated for loved ones. Their favorite foods, drinks, and items are placed on the ofrenda to show that they are not forgotten. Family members present gifts, while songs and dances are meant to awaken the spirits, serving notice that there’s a party going on. 

On Tuesday, the Associated Students of Moreno Valley College, the MVC Puente Program and iMAKE  Innovation Center held a Día De Los Muertos Celebration at Courdures Plaza.  Associate Professor Emma Pacheco is the Coordinator for the Puente Program. Each year Puente students conduct research prior to Dia De Los Muertos and honor the individuals they research at the college event. According to Professor Pacheco this year’s theme honored Environmental and Art activists.  

“I think it’s crucial and important for the community that we serve  that we demystify and embrace the different cultural aspects of this event connecting it back to the larger research aspects,” said Pacheco. Some of the activists which were honored this year included: Keith Haring, Anthony Bourdain, Sylvia Rivera, Jacob Lawrence and Chico Mendes.  

Dia De Los Muertos traditionally takes place the day after Halloween. However, if you missed MVC’s Dia De Los Muertos event, there’s still time to take part in the post Halloween tradition in Riverside this weekend.

On November 5th, the 19th Annual Riverside Day of the Dead celebration will take place on Market Street between University Avenue and 14th Street from 1pm-10pm. The family friendly event is presented by Division 9 Gallery. There will be arts and crafts, altar displays, face painting, food vendors, apparel  vendors, and Aztec dancers. The celebration will include a Catrina Pageant and Lucha Libre matches.