Ignoring the chilly evening air nipping about them, hundreds of laughing people thronged through Roberto Maestas Plaza at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, Washington, for the organization’s 15th annual Día de Muertos celebration on Nov. 1. Some wore extravagant, traditional Mexican outfits trimmed with lace, faces painted and decorated to look like bejeweled skulls. Others tucked up in puffy jackets eagerly waited in line for pan de muerto, or Mexican bread of the dead, and a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
Modern Día de Muertos celebrations are a mix of pre-colonial Aztec traditions and post-colonial Spanish traditions. For instance, while flowers, specifically marigolds, were used in the Aztec celebration for the deceased, Spanish colonizers moved the date of the celebration to November, in order to coincide with the European All Soul’s Day. While El Centro de la Raza sets themes for its celebrations –– this year’s theme was, “Perseverance – Power in Action: Voice! Vote! Venceremos!” –– setting a theme isn’t necessarily a hallmark of all celebrations.
Inside El Centro de la Raza, staff and volunteers handed out purple stickers decorated with a sugar skull that read, “Vote!”, and a line of visitors who wanted to get their faces painted stretched down the first floor hallway. Upstairs, people moved slowly through a hall full of ofrendas, or welcoming tables for the dead. The ofrendas were dedicated to different themes, such as environmentalism, and people, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the 11 victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting last year.
Groups also performed dance and musical numbers, all of which were native to different places in Mexico. These groups included dance group Folklore Mexicano Tonatzin, Duo Finelli, Ceatl Tonalli, and a group of students from Chief Stealth International High School.
Featured image: People look at an ofrenda, during El Centro de la Raza’s Día de Muertos celebration.