Redwood City’s Day of the Dead Festival, a time of celebration and remembrance of loved ones lost, is returning to downtown Nov. 7 after going “virtual” last year because of the Covid pandemic. It will be the event’s 10th anniversary.
The program on Courthouse Square will begin that Sunday at 4 p.m. and will include a procession, dancing and other live entertainment, face-painting, and children’s activities, according to Veronica Escamez, founding director of Casa Circulo Cultural. Booths will offer traditional Día de los Muertos food such as hot chocolate, pan de muerto, tamales and more.
The Day of the Dead Festival features ceremonial altars on display both in the San Mateo County History Museum and outdoors. In an attempt to keep people from congregating too closely when they come to view the colorful and elaborate tributes, the altars in the museum will be open a week earlier, Oct. 30 through Nov. 9, according to Escamez. Covid protocols will also be in place.
She is looking forward to the return of the popular event, which was held last year via streaming. “Actually, we were surprised because we had more than 5,000 visits.”
For the live event, “We go to the downtown at 6 o’clock in the morning and transform the downtown into a little town in Mexico,” Escamez explains. Community members create altars for display both indoors and outdoors to honor family members who have died.
Despite its name, Escamez says the atmosphere is not sad—Halloween, she maintains, is actually scarier—and instead is one of celebration, with family members bringing personal items and offerings of food and flowers that their loved ones particularly liked. “It’s a happy moment because then you remember how they were, what they like.”
The Redwood City resident thinks the Day of Dead Festival has been such a success because it brings people together from all ethnicities, some of whom know the tradition and others motivated by curiosity. “It’s a way for us to show the world what we have in our own tradition,” says the Mexico City native, who has lived in the United States for 33 years.
The Nov. 7 event starts at 4 p.m. and continues until 8 p.m. Among the entertainers will be an Aztec-inspired group and an opera singer from Mexico. About 6:30 p.m. there will be speakers, including the Mexican Consul General.
About 100 volunteers are involved in the event, from those who spend the day setting it up to the entertainers. Among the many sponsors of Día de los Muertos are the California Arts Council, the Redwood City Civic Cultural Commission, the Parks and Arts Foundation, Willow Supermarket, Recology and Climate Magazine.
Photo courtesy of the Casa Círculo Cultural website.