The Courthouse Square came alive in honor of the dead.
Photos by Adam Pardee and 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.
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.
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