Photo Stories

Dia de los Muertos: Fruitvale celebrates the dead

Photostory by Christina R. Hernandez

The Dia de los Muertos festival in Fruitvale ran down Oakland’s International Boulevard, stretching from Fruitvale Avenue to 39th Avenue on Oct. 26, 2008. The main attractions were the altars, a Dia de los Muertos staple, created by professional artists and members of the public who were moved to honor life and death.

Dia de los Muertos, Spanish for “Day of the Dead,” is a Mexican tradition of honoring the dead, dating back to pre-Columbian times. It is currently celebrated in Mexico on Nov. 1-2, coinciding with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Altars include traditional decorations, such as hand-made skulls and skeletons, adorned with elaborate designs, yellow marigolds, sugar skulls, and pan dulce, though personal artifacts and photos are also used.

Three stages, located at Fruitvale Avenue, Fruitvale Village, and at 35th Avenue along International Boulevard featured a variety of Latino bands and dancers. It was unclear exactly where the official festival ended, as crowds stretched to the 4000 block of International Boulevard, reaching a fourth stage just past 40th Avenue.

Around 1 p.m., crowds congested the boulevard, especially around the stages. Intersections that would have normally taken seconds to cross on foot instead took several minutes, as people tried to navigate themselves though the festival or get a better view of the performers. Bands, including including Toni Quintero y Su Poder Michoacano and Mystique and others of different genres such as Latin rock, salsa, Duranguense and Norteño performed during the festival.

Aztec and Mexican folk dancers in full regalia entertained the visitors with different styles of dancing, and a troupe of “muertos” played tag games with children in the crowded street. Many vendors sold Dia de los Muertos decorations. The predominant element of the decorations is the skeleton, often specifically the skull, or calavera.


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