Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day of the Dead in San Francisco

Last night we went to San Francisco's Day of the Dead festivities sponsored by the Marigold Project.
Death at Garfield Park

The event wasn't a drunken debauch, and included many children, like the two little girls we saw when we got off the bus at 24th and Mission.
These girls wear formal dresses, put paper flowers in their hair, and carry candles: traditional Dias de los Muertos garb

We stopped at a Mexican bakery to buy some pan de muertos, or bread of the dead, which is shaped like human bodies. They also sold sugar skulls.
Celebrants buying pan de muertos at a Mexican bakery

Then we made our way to Garfield Park on the corner of 25th and Harrison, where all kinds of people had set up altars to honor their dead loved ones. Most were elaborate.
Photographs and flowers festoon a huge tree trunk

Musicians perform beside a complex altar

Others were humble.
A simple alter set up around the base of a lamppost includes food, marigolds, and candles

Some altars invited passersby to write a note to a dead relative. So I wrote a greeting to my mother June, my father Kenneth, and my father-in-law Phil, and dropped it in a tall glass. Then we lit candles and joined the procession dancing down 24th Street.

My friend Evy said this is one of the only events in San Francisco that hasn't been taken over by commercial interests. It is all home grown, and everyone is welcome to participate. I was struck by the wedding gowns women wear, and the pervasive Death faces. It's exciting to see people engage in a romantic relationship with Death, instead of running from it.
Death looks right at me

Here's a video that gives you a feel for the procession. The first part shows some kind of Death insect. Note the two skeletons kissing in the foreground. After that, it's all about the drums.

When we reached Mission Street, Evy suggested seeing the altars created by professional artists at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, but I didn't want to pay $5 for the reception they were hosting that night. Looking over their web site now, though, I regret it not going in. Next year, I want to sign up for the workshops on altar creation and making paper marigolds. The exhibits will be on display until November 19 at 2868 Mission Street.

After the parade officially ended, some bands broke off and continued dancing in the streets. Here's a rogue band of revelers passing in front of the bus we took home.

And here's Death as a woman, reminding you to honor and remember your dead relatives and friends.

1 comment:

  1. Love this Patsy! The only non-commercial interest SF function indeed! It's been awhile since I've browsed your blog here and I like what I see as I catch up a bit...Seems as though you are truly digging your move back to the city...Great posts!!