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Old Town Day of the Dead altar honors loved ones

Day of the Dead
Alexandra Rangel
Natalie Bishop holds pictures of her grandmother and great-grandparents who have died. The pictures were placed at the Day of the Dead altar at Old Town Market. Oct. 20, 2021.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2. This year, the holiday holds a heavy weight, as the pandemic has taken the lives of many people.

In San Diego's Old Town, Natalie Bishop hopes her grandmother Celia Buenrostro is remembered as someone who was cheerful, happy, and the life of the party.

Buenrostro was a longtime store owner of Celia’s Dolls in Old Town. She died in August from COVID-19.

“It was really hard for all of us to come around here and visit the shop after knowing she wasn't going to be here,” Bishop said.

Just weeks ago Buenrostro was working at her shop, doing what she loved the most — creating beautiful dolls.

Now, her picture adorns the Day of the Dead altar outside her shop.

“Having her up there, it’s just weird everyday to see her and remember that she's not here, but in her presence and in the pictures,” Bishop said.

Although their family is still grieving, Bishop said they’ve been celebrating Buenrostro’s life and the legacy she leaves behind.

Old Town Day of the Dead Altar honors loved ones

It’s exactly what Victor Santana hopes people will embrace when they visit the altar at Old Town Market.

Every year Old Town Market makes an altar that the community can visit.

“We commemorate those that worked with us at some point or family members of people that worked here,” Santana said.

He framed pictures of his father and his grandparents.

People who visit the altar may recognize prominent San Diegans that are no longer with us and Mexican celebrities who left their mark on the world.

Santanta explained the meaning of leaving an offering — or "ofrenda" — on the altar.

“You put a photograph of somebody that died that you felt very near and dear to yourself and then you probably add some items that you remember them by for example what they like to eat, what they like to drink, a piece of clothing,” he said.

Old Town will hold a special celebration on Nov. 2. They will be hosting a traditional procession at 5 p.m. to the El Campo Santo cemetery displaying a public altar.

Following the procession there will be a celebration with live music, food and face painting.

chula-vista-public-library.jpg
Alexandra Rangel
A Día de los Muertos altar at the Chula Vista Public Library is shown in this undated photo.

Public Library branches in the South Bay are also celebrating the tradition.

Community members can contribute to the library’s Day of the Dead altar by bringing an offering or writing a poem.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is also hosting an altar at the County Administration Center for community members who died from COVID-19.

He’s asking San Diegans to contribute to the altar.

To submit a picture of your loved one you can complete a form at the County Administration Center by October 27.

The altar will be displayed on the east side of the County Administration Center building on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.