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Altar-making and baking are keeping Día de Muertos tradition alive in Santa Maria

Altar-making and baking are keeping Día de Muertos tradition alive in Santa Maria.
Posted at 8:52 PM, Nov 02, 2022

Día de Muertos in Mexico is a long-standing tradition that began before the Spanish Conquest in 1521.

It is believed the spirits of our deceased loved ones return to Earth.

Nov. 1 is known as All Saints Day, which includes honoring the lives of kids who have passed away.

Nov. 2 is the day dedicated to all souls.

“This event is not necessarily about mourning our loved ones who have maybe passed but it’s about celebrating the life, celebrating the things that they did, the things they did to get us to where we are and also celebrate in community and also honor our own lives,” said Abraham Melendrez, Corazón del Pueblo’s Executive Director.

The organization Corazón del Pueblo worked with the Santa Maria Town Center Mall, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and Santa Maria Bonita School District to have these altars on display at the Santa Maria Town Center Mall.

The Student Club Latinos Unidos from Righetti High School created an ofrenda or altar.

“We wanted to highlight Cepillín and Vicente Fernández who are just extraordinary Latinos who we grew up listening to and watching,” said Susana Espinoza, a Righetti High School student.

Slain U.S. Army Soldier Vanessa Guillen, Mexican actress Carmen Salinas and activist Cesar Chávez are also represented.

Beyond Latinx icons they added a personal touch.

“To the people that have passed away from COVID-19, that’s just a big part of our community right now,” said Carlos Gonzalez, a Righetti High School student.

The spirits need guidance, which is why there are some key elements.

“Elements of having food and water and drink, maybe a favorite food item for a loved one who has passed,” added Melendrez.

According to the Mexican Government, candles are used as a symbol of hope and its light guides those spirits, salt purifies souls, and water is to ease a spirit’s thirst.

Another key element is Pan de Muerto or bread of the dead.

Panadería Mana in Santa Maria only makes this type of bread once a year.

Oziel Martínez is from Michoacán one of the states in Mexico where Día de Muertos is heavily celebrated.

Martinez says it’s a unique bread that requires a lot of work, but it is a form of art. The whole process takes about three hours.

Although it is hard to let go of those people we loved so much, Día de Muertos is a way to keep their legacy alive.

“I started bringing that tradition to my home, so I started educating my family, and I started creating these altars at home and now at my grandparents' house,” said Gonzalez.