Dia de los Muertos - 1999 Photo: Evelyn and Janet Johnson
Dia de los Muertos Celebration
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Fruitvale
Festival is an annual one-day street festival held in the Fruitvale
district of Oakland and sponsored by the Spanish Speaking Unity
Council. The event began in 1996 and was used to launch the
Fruitvale Main Street Program, which is part of the overall
revitalization effort of the Fruitvale commercial area led by the
Unity Council in this primarily low-income Latino community.
This cultural event, which is free to the public,
serves to document, celebrate, preserve and promote the traditional
celebration of the holiday. It is believed that on this day, the Day
of the Dead, the deceased are given divine consent to visit with
their relatives and friends on earth. The annual reunion takes
place on November 1st and 2nd, merging the Catholic holy days of
All Saints' and All Souls' Day with the Aztec Quecholli, the
fourteenth month of the Aztec solar calendar that honored warriors.
The festival incorporates the unique cultural traditions of the
Spanish-speaking and indigenous residents in a format of openness
and cross-cultural celebration.
Dia de los Muertos is
relevant to all people regardless of ethnic background -- everyone
is impacted by death and can pay tribute to their loved ones.
Dia de los Muertos is
commemorated with elaborately decorated
specially prepared foods, and music for the occasion. The altars
range from modest individual tributes to departed family members --
which often include photos, favorite belongings, foods, fresh
flowers, and papel picado (colorful hand-cut papers) -- to
larger more expensive installations which have specific themes. The
Fruitvale festival enlists the talents of local artists from all
cultures, who construct the elaborate ofrendas that are
displayed in business windows and at other community locations. In
addition to the creation of altars by artists, musicians and
dancers appear on three main stages.
The Dia de los Muertos celebration promotes
and preserves the tradition of the area's Spanish-speaking and
indigenous populations. It provides a safe and entertaining venue
for people from Oakland and all over the Bay area to experience the
cultural traditions and values of the community as they celebrate
the "Day of the Dead." Given its success in recent years, and the
growing popularity of the event, it is expected to attract more
than 60,000 people in the year 2000.
Project documentation includes a two-page report;
nine 8 x 10 color photographs; programs, flyers, street maps, and a
tee-shirt from the October 30, 1999 celebration; information on the
Fruitvale Main Street Program, with 3-year retrospective photos of
the event; and videotapes of the 1998 and 1999 festivals.
Originally submitted by: Barbara Lee, Representative (9th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.