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Kimberly, eight years-old of Oceanside at Dia de los Muertos, Mission San Luis Rey

Dia de los Muertos- October 29, 2017

Volunteers Needed for Largest Festival in San  Diego

Oceanside CA— Community organizers and organizations come together to keep the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oceanside.  Spearheaded by many and headed by Cathy Nykiel, Dave Mears of Legendary Event Management and Chema and Manuel Navarro of Por Siempre Car Club, the festival will continue this tradition in Oceanside at the Old Mission San Luis Rey again for its 16th celebratory year on October 29, 2017, 10:00am-4:00pm.

This year, the festival will continue with its many community partners to continue the largest attended Dia de los Muertos Festival again at Old Mission San Luis Rey.  This vibrant event will showcase over 25 altars, traditional dancers, Classic Car Show, a shopping Mercado, amongst the serenity of the King of the Mission’s grounds.

Marlene, 13 works on an altar

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition dating back 3,000 years that honors the memories of the deceased.  “It’s a celebration of the lives of loved ones who aren’t here anymore” states coordinator, Cathy Nykiel.  At the heart of the festival was the use of more than 30,000 marigolds, the traditional Dia de los Muertos flower, grown especially for the day by Oceanside’s own, Mellano Flower Company since the festival’s inception.

“The pungent aroma of the flowers rises up to heaven just like the spirits of the dead do,” said Fran Connell, an Oceanside resident who has volunteered at the celebration for the past three years. The altar, full of “ofrendas”, is the focal point to observing the Día de los Muertos. In Mexico it is built at home and/or at the grave side. Entire families construct altars as an annual commitment.  Individuals who wish to build an altar at the event must apply.

Today, Many immigrants, especially the Oaxacan community, have brought these traditions with them. They are now sharing them with everyone by participating in Día de los Muertos Festivals in the U.S. Non-Mexicans are learning that Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life and death that speaks to everyone who has lost somebody. Some people attend because either they are curious, or they want to just have a good time. Perhaps they want to continue this wonderful tradition. Whatever the reason, it’s wonderful to see so many different types of people gathered in one place to celebrate life and death. In la fiesta of Día de los Muertos, time no longer bars one spirit from another by reason of death.

Throughout the day, traditional music and entertainment of the Mexican culture will be viewed.  The day starts out with an opening ceremony called the  Calpulli Omeyocan.   Individuals dressed up in traditional Mexican Authentic costumes using musical instruments –all made out of only natural materials.  The clothes of leather, wool, cotton, and natural fibers.  Headdresses and all of the musical instruments, conch, drummers and shakers are handmade.  This element of the festival is essential to the day.  Its purpose —to thank the elements:  North, South, West and East.  And also Life death, water air, earth.  Each color represents a different aspect of the tradition– blue west/water, white smoke of your copal/sky, black –north/ death, and red for Mother Earth.  This ritual is to give thanks and ask for peace, harmony and longevity by thanking Mother Earth her bountifulness.

The day continues with Ballet Folk Lorico and the Rubios groups.  Dances and Comparsas are part of the Carnival form the Days of the Dead.-The festivities of the Days of the Dead include traditional and satirical dances like the Rubios and the Chilolos. “La Danza de Los Rubios” (Dance of the Fair-skinned Ones) is a traditional dance from the Mixtec area that honors the cowboys who herded cattle from Oaxaca to the states of Veracruz and Puebla as well as parodies the ruler from Spanish descent. This group and the dance reflect fearless and intrepid men who risked their lives herding cattle. This is a unique dance because instead of “sones” and “jarabes”, they dance to music of violins and guitars which is associated to west coastal music in Mexico.

Por Siempre Car Club started doing a Car Show in 2009 at the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oceanside.  Since that day the numbers of classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles has grown to over 70.  Each year, Chema and Manuel host and coordinate this element of the festival.   Classic and antique vehicle entries have presented colorful and elaborate ofrenda/altars in their car, trunk or bed of their vehicle.  Por Siempre was the first and only Car Club to implement the idea of merging car clubs to bring the Dia de los Muertos altar into a car club show and enhance the festival.  “ We are often imitated but never duplicated, “ stated Chema Navarro.

And of course the great food we all love, tamales, tortas, tacos, corn/elote, raspados, burritos, mole and so much more.   Vendors from all over California will be there to show off their prowess in providing traditional food for the festival.  And the desserts to sweeten your palette.  Continuing trading, the traditional bread, Pan de Muerto, also known as Bread for the Dead, will be available at the festival.  All bread has been made at our local bakery, La Perla Tapatía on Mission Avenue.  This wonderful bread has raised areas that resemble bones of the dead – and there lies the start of its name, Pan de Muerto.

You too can share in this celebration: the free interactive chalk cemetery has continuously grown over the years where you can dedicate images, flowers and candles to your loved ones.  Oceanside has continuously been identified with its integrated cultural diversity for several decades.  This particular event has grown with the increased participation from our city’s residents and guests from all over San Diego County and its surrounding area. Our Día de los Muertos Festival is becoming one of the largest events of this tradition in the US.  Everyone gets a chance to remember a loved one in a graphic, participatory way by decorating their own Ofrenda with chalk, candles, and marigolds.

Join us and you will agree that NO other Day of the Dead celebration offers you the feeling of peace you get when you’re celebrating amidst the ancestral cemetery of the Mission.  As you take in the traditional Day of the Dead tributes such as chalk cemeteries, floral alters,  vehicular altars and other such remembrances, you can’t help but feel a sense of calmness and serenity come over you making this the most emotionally altering Dia you’ll ever experience!

Individuals wishing to participate in the event may contact Dave Mears or Cathy Nykiel.  Information is available on the event website:  http://www.mslrdiadelosmuertos.com.