LYNNWOOD, Wash, November 1, 2021 – On Saturday, October 30, the WAGRO Foundation sponsored a Day of the Dead event at Lynnwood’s City Hall. From dances to costumes, participants got to share their traditions and culture with the community.
Traditional Aztec Dance
The event began with a traditional Aztec dance performed by the German-Maldonado family and some close friends. Jesus, 18, whose dad played the drums while his mother led the steps, explained the spiritual significance of their dance. “It’s a way to connect to a higher power,” he says.
“We have this circle, and all our energy goes towards the center, and all that energy rises up, and specifically for this day, it goes towards those who have passed away — to remember them,” he explains. “But if it’s not an event for the Day of the Dead, we usually take that energy up to Christ and let him bring his strength down to us so that we can keep going.”
A Las Catrinas costume contest followed the dance. Catrinas are recognizable by their iconic skeletal face-paintings and usually wear elaborate headpieces or hats. As Suly Altamirano, the event’s coordinator, explains, they’re essentially symbols of the Day of the Dead and that the costumes tell a story.
“Las Catrinas is very important to us. It’s a concept that was born year and years ago in our culture, and it represents the stories […] of those who have passed away to the other life,” she says. “What was their story? And so [the costumes are] a way of representing them.”
Click here to see the contest winners.
Day of the Dead poems, known as “Calavera Literaria,” were also read during the event. Altamirano says that the poems give insight into how Mexican culture views death. “It’s a way of seeing Mexican culture — life and death, and how we see them.”
“We see it in a satirical way, a funny way,” she explains. “It’s how we embrace death in our lives.”
For the concluding event, artists showcased their Ofrendas. An Ofrenda is essentially an altar adorned with offerings for deceased loved ones. Altamirano explained why they are central to the holiday, saying, “The Ofrendas are offerings for our dead people. It’s a way to communicate with them. They are the elements that guide the soul and the spirit to get to our homes and our lives again.”
Altamirano said that it is customary to place food on the altars that loved ones passed enjoyed and that candles and flowers are also used to help guide the spirits back to their living relatives. Different levels on the altar can also symbolize “earth, life, and heaven,” according to Altamirano.
Of course, no celebration would be complete without delicious food. Volunteers dished out tamales and pan (bread) for the occasion.
A message from Councilwoman Julieta Altamirano-Crosby
The Day of the Dead event was initially going to be led by Councilwoman Julita Altamirano-Crosby, but she unexpectedly had to fly to Mexico due to a death in her family. Her niece, Suly Altamirano, oversaw the festivities in her absence.
Even though she couldn’t attend the event, Altamirano-Crosby shared the following message with the Times:
“Celebrating Day of the Dead is a unique day for our Hispanic community to connect with and honor their loved ones, where it is believed that the souls of our ancestors awaken and return to feast, dance, and enjoy music with their living loved ones.
In our culture we celebrate death; we aren’t afraid of death. We believe our ancestors will come and grab the food and be with us. The candles are light for the spirits, to guide them. It’s a highway they follow to your home.
Recognizing that this year Day of the Dead hit many families harder with the number of sudden deaths due to the coronavirus over the last several months, we dedicate this celebration to those who have died from COVID-19. The theme of [the] celebration is resilience in the face of adversity of COVID. We have people bring pictures of their loved ones to put on the altar to show the resilience that we all have shown facing this pandemic.
With COVID-19 affecting every part of our country and all communities, it is imperative for the community to stand in solidarity with one another. We want to welcome our community in Lynnwood, create a space to come together in order to heal and remember their ancestors.
This event celebrates both death and life. Sharing our traditions with others is vital because it allows us to grieve and heal. We want to make sure we pay tribute to those souls who have been lost throughout the year to this disease.
Having recently lost a few members of my family, I am very sad to not be there physically with you. I am in Mexico with my family healing, loving, and honoring our lost ones.
We’ve been honored to have the community take the time to share with the city. We support our community and value their culture. Day of the Dead — it’s not only to pay tribute to Mexican tradition, it’s also how we can talk about the beauty and the culture that every country has.”
List of event’s winners:
- First Place: Jaekeline Menchaca $200
- Second Place: Nora Martínez $100
- Third Place: María Salto Armas $75
- First Place: Team Aztlan $500
- Second Place: Team San Sebastian $250
- Third Place: Team Familia Santos and K’uinchikua $125
- (The third place was a tie and the prize was divided)
Literary Calavera/Poetry: International
- First Place: Javier Castillo Dueñas $200 USD (Ciudad de México)
- Second Place: Martha Vega Damián $100 USD (Chilpancingo, Guerrero-México)
- Third Place: Sonia Rivero $75 USD (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero-México)
Literary Calavera/Poetry: National USA
- First Place: Jorge Vázquez $200 USD
- Second Place: Iván Fernando González $100 USD
- Third Place: Kanún Chacón $75 USD
Special Thanks to all our sponsors for our Day of The Dead Celebration.
- Conexion Contigo Radio
- MAZATLAN RESTAURANT
- Taqueria Puebla
- Red Cork Bistro & Catering
- The Fat Brush: Art workshop
- Actitud Latina
- The Lynnwood Food Bank
- Community Transit
- Community Foundation of Snohomish County
- Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest
- City of Lynnwood, WA – Government
- Tienda Mexicana Los Gavilanes
- UNIVISION Seattle
- Community Health Education