On Saturday November 2, Trinity Lutheran Church hosted Dia de los Muertos, a traditional Mexican day-long event dedicated to honoring the dead. Thanks to the collaboration between Adelante Alliance and La Casita Communal of Sunset Park, neighbors were able to gather and celebrate the memories of the departed together.
“Instead of mourning, it’s a celebration so we have music and it’s a beautiful thing because we are doing this for our forefathers, ancestors,” David Galarza, council president for Trinity Lutheran Church explained. “We miss them but it’s a beautiful way of honoring all peoples regardless of their backgrounds; our ancestors are not just mourned but celebrated.”
Volunteers such as Jimena Lozano, who showed up early to set up tables and decorations, understood the importance of the day. “It’s a day where Mexicans remember our dead people. That is our way to keep them alive today,” said Lozano.
“We miss them. It’s a way of celebrating the dead. But it’s a beautiful way to remember them,” said Karla Quinonez-Ruggiero, director of the not-for-profit Adelante Alliance. The organization helps low-income Spanish-speaking immigrant communities in Brooklyn and the greater metropolitan area.
At the start of the day, children garbed in festive dresses and painted faces performed for the adults with an impressive synchronized dance routine. The event provided young people with a chance to become educated on tradition. “It’s about bringing the past into the present and future,” said Greg Ruggiero, a member of the board of directors at Adelante.
The tradition began as a Mexican holiday, but at least in Sunset Park, it has expanded into all types of cultures. “It’s definitely a Latin American tradition but it’s beautiful because I’ve seen over the years many different backgrounds embrace it and own it. They’ve come to the altar with offerings of their own. That’s a beautiful thing,” said Galarza.
An altar of the dead was displayed at the side of the space. It was an area for individuals to contribute various items that had significance to their loved ones who have passed on. “The items highlight the personalities of some of the departed. You may see tequila, a mango, a board game, some card, pictures of the departed here,” Galarza said.
The day also included a live band, donations, food and raffles. Children were even given the opportunity to decorate and paint mock skulls.
Carlos Menchaca – who was elected to be the area’s city councilmember just three days later — was in attendance. “Celebrating Dia De Los Muertos, a rich Mexican cultural event is very important to do it here in Sunset Park,” he said. “Celebrating their culture, the pride and joy it allows, that’s what New York City is all about. That’s why I’m here today.”