SELMA – Now that the second annual Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration is complete, organizers hope the tradition of commemorating dead loved ones only grows year after year.
“It’s very meaningful for a lot of reasons,” said Centro de Folklor studio owner and dance instructor Oscar Hernandez. “I think a lot of people were very confused about what Day of the Dead is all about. They see the skeletons and think it’s something scary or connected to Halloween. Hopefully, we’re teaching it’s more like our memorial day and that it’s a celebration of life and remembrance for those that have passed on.”
This year’s celebration was Nov. 4 and included an Altar Trail from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 where 12 businesses throughout Downtown Selma hosted altars dedicated to family members. Visitors would learn a little more about each family member through the items decorating each tribute.
Bead Central Boutique owner Maria Elena Silva was among shop owners who had an altar on display in front of her business.
“Vicki Filgas asked me and I said since it’s for the community, why not? I like Day of the Dead.”
Silva said if an altar were to be built for her, it would be filled with things that make her happy like horchata, beads and sewing items.
The altar outside her shop was created for Ramona Inez Jaramillo and had photos, flowers and drinks to commemorate her memory. Another altar outside of Bloomies Floral was dedicated to Jim Robison and featured photographs, Klondike bars and pieces from his favorite games. The altar outside of Oaxaca Restaurant bore photos and the favorite foods of Telesforo Negrete and Mariana Ambriz along with a poster telling their lives’ stories.
Hernandez said the altar walk and folklorico dance performances by students from Selma High and the dance studio were the culmination of months of rehearsals to keep traditional dances alive.
“When we opened Centro de Folklor, we really wanted to bring some of the traditions and cultures of Mexico. If you were originally from Mexico, this will bring back memories. If you’re not, it’s just a learning experience to learn more about the culture.”
Hernandez said this year’s altars and walk were especially meaningful as an aunt had died and thus one of the altars was dedicated to her.
“My aunt passed away in December and we were able to honor her with one of the mini-altars with all the beautiful things she used to love.”
Hernandez said that attendance and participation has increased for this second event and although he’s pleased, he isn’t surprised as the community has had a long-standing tradition of folklorico dance through Los Paisanos.
“Like [long-time dance instructor] Vicki Filgas likes to say, we’re the ombligo of folklorico. That means the belly button as we’re right in the center of it all. There were so many years that folklorico has been in Selma through Selma High School and Los Paisanos. Generation after generation has loved it. They’re either coming themselves, or they’re sending their kids or even their grandkids. We literally had three generations all dancing today that performed today,” he said.
The altar walk was sponsored by Arte Americas, the National Endowment of the Arts and the Selma Chamber of Commerce.