The Courthouse Square came alive in honor of the dead.

Photos by Adam Pardee and Danny Acosta

Members of the Pan de Vida living art exhibit as mariachi muertos stopped foot traffic all night and posed for photos with event goers. (Photo by Danny Acosta)

Redwood City’s 7th Annual Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration took over Courthouse Square from Sunday afternoon to evening. People morphed into individual works of living art by painting their faces and dressing up— traditional to contemporary — for a colorful array of ceremony, music, dancing, food, and more as the living payed tribute to the dead, celebrating ancestors and loved ones.

An altar adorned with cake, complete with figurines from the Oscar award winning animated Pixar film Coco. (Photo by Danny Acosta)

Redwood City hosted a wide cross section of Peninsula residents, who turned out in droves to participate in all of the art, history, tradition and culture that comprises the unique and upbeat occasion.

Pixar’s 2017 Oscar award-winning animated film Coco has boosted the holiday’s mainstream significance. Thus Dia de los Muertos 2018 marks a special moment as Coco’s impact was on display for the first time, and now sure to be an ingredient every year in the affair’s special blend. Despite the topical momentum, Redwood City’s organizers did the event justice with genuine context and texture.

According to the indigenous beliefs of Mexico’s Janitzio Island, four essential elements—earth, wind, water and fire—feed the decorative altars to honor the dead on this occasion. Aromas and symbols of the harvest season — corn, fragrant fruit, squash — honor the earth. Colorful paper intricately cut represents the wind so the presence of the dead can be noticed through a breeze. Water is left in open containers to quench a soul’s thirst on their long afterlife journey. Fire burns candles to light the way home for souls or simply represents the souls themselves.

If one ever finds themselves far away from Redwood City during a day of the dead, a momentous celebration is located in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, some 225 miles west of the capital Mexico City. Indigenous people descend on a lake and pile into canoes with a single candle burning on each bow, paddling to the tiny Janitzio Island for an all-night vigil at a cemetery.

The Six Fifty didn’t trek to Pátzcuaro this time — but still found plenty of spirit within all of the artful interaction at Redwood City’s Dia de los Muertos event.

Clockwise from top: Cesar Cazalli poses for a photo in full makeup, skeleton body suit, and wings covered in flags from Central America; Redwood City Public Library held an area where children could paint Dia de los Muertos themed skulls; Chalk drawing on the floor where kids could fill art squares outside the main piece; The face painting station was employed by ten skilled face painting artists continually painting during the entire event. (Photos by Adam Pardee and Danny Acosta)
Miriam Perez (left) and Angelina Salazar (right) pose for a photo in full-dress for Dia de los Muertos. (Photo by Adam Pardee)
Clockwise from top: Courthouse Square was filled with thousands of visitors exploring the alters, watching the performances, and eating and shopping at the vendors on Hamilton and Middlefield Road; Decorated alters on display paid tribute to the deceased; Victor Luna (left) and Yari Lombera (right) posed for a photo dressed from head to toe; Skulls were the popular item for sale from the vendors on Hamilton Street; As the sun set on Courthouse Square, traditional music and performances set the scene for visitors. (Photos by Adam Pardee)
Altars feature pictures of loved ones that have passed on, including offerings of light, food, flowers, art and other ways to remember and honor them. (Photo by Danny Acosta)
Clockwise from top: A member of the Pan de Vida living art exhibit in a golden evening gown complete with lighting accessories; Nancy Radcliffe poses with full makeup and a reptilian themed dress and headdress; Enthusiastic attendees, families, couples, all walks of life (no pun intended) descended upon Courthouse Square for the celebration. (Photos by Adam Pardee and Danny Acosta)
One of the largest groups to embrace the festivities brought their lively energy through the night. (Photo by Danny Acosta)

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More from The Six Fifty:

An afternoon within the City of the Dead

The chef’s bucket list: 47 Peninsula dishes to eat before you die

The final days of Redwood City’s world-renowned roller skating mecca

Feral Photography: amazing animal imagery from Silicon Valley trail cams

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