From South Bay to North County: A guide to Día de Muertos celebrations in San Diego
From the South Bay to the North County Día de Muertos — or Day of the Dead — festivities are already underway and some are expected to begin in the coming days throughout the county and across the border in Tijuana. Attendees can enjoy different aspects and traditions of Día de Muertos.
Participants look forward to putting on makeup in the form of a skull or dressing up as the holiday’s iconic figures, La Catrina or El Catrin, which mean "elegant skull" in Spanish. Others enjoy making colorful sugar skulls or eating Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead). For many, it’s an opportunity for honoring and preserving one’s culture. And for those who have lost a loved one, it’s about remembering them, welcoming them back and celebrating their lives.
Lost loved ones are welcomed back through offerings or "ofrendas" also known as the creation of an altar. This tradition is rooted in the indigenous peoples of Mexico who believed the dead could temporarily return to the world of the living.
This year KPBS is hosting a digital community ofrenda or altar, where you can submit a memory celebrating a loved one who has passed away. Deadline to submit is Oct. 22. Submissions will be posted on our website starting on Oct. 28.
But if you want to physically see an altar there are several community altars and events throughout the county with Día de Muertos celebrations.
Barrio Logan will celebrate its inaugural Día de Muertos celebration from 12- 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29. This free family event includes face painting and crafts for kids in the Zona del Axolotl, altars, mariachi, baile folklorico, a screening of the film Coco and much more. At 12 p.m., Danzantes de Calpulli will begin a cleansing at “Lowrider Lane.” There will also be a lowrider showcase and contest. The celebration’s theme is Espiritu de Xochimilco: two communities with similar struggles and honoring the strength of ancestors, grandparents, parents and loved ones. Both Xochimilco and Barrio Logan have faced challenges such as land-use changes and contamination. You can find the schedule on the All for Logan event page.
Chula Vista is hosting its 3rd annual Día de los Muertos celebration 3-8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28 in the heart of downtown Chula Vista for a free family event. The celebration is said to include a transformation of the South Bay neighborhood to a cempasúchil-filled extravaganza. It will include a community altar where the public is encouraged to participate and bring photos of loved ones who have passed away. The downtown Chula Vista Association is also hosting an altar contest. Categories include best altar created by schools/students, the general public and best overall altar. Attendees are also encouraged to dress up as La Catrina and El Catrin and participate in a contest which includes cash prizes ranging from $100 to $500. The link to sign up for the Catrin and Catrina contest is here and the deadline to sign up is 5 p.m. on Oct. 26. There will also be a craft station for kids, food, photo opportunities and a screening of the film “Book of Life,” at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Bowl.
The City of Imperial Beach’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services along with the San Diego County Library Imperial Beach are hosting the second annual Día de los Muertos Community Celebration from 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2 at Veterans Park. Activities for this free celebration include an altar to honor loved ones who have passed away, mariachi music, ballet folklórico, activities for kids and more.
Oceanside is hosting its 22nd Annual Oceanside Día de los Muertos Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22 in downtown, Oceanside. Altars are a focal point of this family-friendly event and will include community and family altars, as well as a car show with trunk altars. There will also be traditional dance performances such as ballet folklórico, Rubios dancers, and Danza de los Diablos. Festivities also include Mariachi International San Diego, Banda Herencia Mixteca. Attendees can also participate in the Chalk Cemetery and dedicate a memorial to a lost loved one in chalk and decorate the space with flowers and candles. This celebration also promises a space for lowrider bicycle groups, a Catrina contest, kid’s activities, arts and crafts, food, and even a flower booth. The event website is filled with information on the history of the Día de Muertos, to offerings for altars.
As part of Día de Muertos celebrations, Old Town’s Immaculate Conception Church is hosting a candlelit procession with blessings and traditional dances by Danza Azteca Atlachinolli on Nov. 2 at 6pm. The free event begins at sundown in front of the church and ends at El Campo Santo Cemetery
The Día de Muertos celebration at the Sherman Heights Community Center first started in 1994 from several residents who were recent immigrants and reportedly grew up with the tradition of decorating cemeteries with their families of their loved ones. The celebration is already underway. It started on Oct. 12 and runs for a week. Festivities includes altars starting Oct. 17 to Nov.2. a Muertos Candlelight Procession from either the Centro Cultural de la Raza or the Sherman Heights Community Center. There are also several workshops ,which include creating your own alebrije, flower crowns and more. Make sure to check the Sherman Heights Community Center website for information on the dates and times of their Día de Muertos programming. If you want to learn more, check out their Calaveritas y Diablitos resource filled with history and how-to guides, including sugar skulls.
The Centro Cultural in Tijuana is hosting a Festival de Día de Muertos starting from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2 to Sunday Nov. 5, Festivities for this free celebration include music, ballet folklórico, theater, food and traditional celebrations of Día de Muertos. These festivities also include a free concert by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra which will make its first appearance in Tijuana. The concert is part of the California Festival, a statewide initiative demonstrating “compelling and forward-looking voices in performances.” It begins at 7 p.m.