Santa Monica Lookout
|Plenty of Options to Celebrate Day of the Dead in Santa Monica||
By Jason Islas
After tallying Thursday night’s “Trick-or-Treat” candy, residents and visitors alike will have a chance to experience -- and even participate in -- a several events throughout the bayside city celebrating the three-day traditional Mexican holiday in honor of the dead.
Thursday night’s fun will be illuminated by Santa Monica Pier’s world-famous Ferris wheel, which, for the holiday, will feature a “Jack-o-Lantern” pattern radiating from its 160,000 solar-powered LED lights.
Then, at dusk on Friday, the Roberts Art Gallery at Santa Monica High School will come to life in a colorful -- and musical -- celebration of the dead.
For more than 10 years, the gallery has hosted traditional Dia de los Muertos art work, altars and dancing by students, said Track Coach and Art Teacher Tania Fischer.
“It’s always been a collaborative effort,” Fischer recalled. And this year is no different.
Starting at 5 p.m., visitors to the gallery will see art work by Fischer’s pottery class, who will be making calaveras, traditional skulls used in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
There will also be a traditional Aztec folk dance and blessing as well as folk-art paintings done by the advanced art class, papier-mâché skeletons from Grant Elementary School and an altar by the Advanced Placement Spanish class in honor of the 20 children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on December 14, 2012.
Along with the 20 children, lone-gunman Adam Lanza killed six adults -- including himself and his mother, a teacher -- after storming the school in Newton, Connecticut around 9:30 a.m, armed with an assault rifle and two hand guns.
Just down the street from Santa Monica High School, the celebration will continue with traditional food and music at the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC).
Starting at 6 p.m., “We're dedicating the altar to Peggy Bergmann,” said PYFC Executive Director Oscar de la Torre.
Bergmann, a local philanthropist, died last December. She left $1.6 million to the PYFC to facilitate its work with at-risk youth. She also left $4.8 million to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, the single largest donation in the organization’s history.
De la Torre said that the kids at the Center also wrote a song for the holiday and would be performing it Friday night.
They would also be honoring Gil Verastegui, who died in June after being shot in an outbreak of gang violence in the Pico Neighborhood.
While Verategui had strong ties the the Youth Center, those killed less than a week earlier in the unrelated shooting spree that ended on the Santa Monica College Campus, did not. ("Recent Spate of Shootings Break Long Peace in Santa Monica," June 12)
As a result, de la Torre said, he didn’t feel comfortable incorporating those victims into Friday’s festivities.
Since El Dia de los Muertos is a festive holiday, de la Torre said that it’s up to the families to decide if that’s how they want their loved ones remembered.
"We have to have permission," he said. "It's not for us to make that call."
Just a few blocks east, at the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center, people are invited to bring “photos of loved ones and items to be placed on the annual altar,” City officials said.
“Following a traditional ceremony, refreshments will be served,” they said.
The festivities continue Saturday at Woodlawn Cemetery. Kicking off the celebration at 11 a.m. will be a procession of by the Ketzaliztli Aztec dancers.
The procession will be followed by a number of activities, including a workshop to create offerings of marigold coronitas --little crowns -- and papel picado -- a type of traditional perforated paper offering -- for loved ones who have passed, according to City staff.
There will also be “self-guided tours of the cemetery that explore the history of local famous people, a documentary on how a small town in Mexico prepares for the celebration, a traditional Nahuatl ceremonial blessing and musicians performing throughout the cemetery to honor those who have passed,” staff said.
For a comprehensive list of events for Dia de los Muertos, visit smgov.net/dia.
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