Alive in memory: one Dia de los Muertos altar.

A traditional Dia de los Muertos altar in Sherman Heights summons ancestors and close loved ones who have passed from this world.
A traditional Dia de los Muertos altar in Sherman Heights summons ancestors and loved ones who have passed from this world.

I went for a long walk this morning. My feet carried me through Sherman Heights, a neighborhood directly east of downtown San Diego. I was hoping to see some of the community Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altars. These outdoor altars, distributed about a few residential streets, were the focus of yesterday’s popular Sherman Heights Muertos Festival, which I missed.

Heading down 24th Street, I spotted one elaborate altar near the sidewalk and was struck by the rich, heartfelt symbolism.

Loved ones who’ve “passed to the other side” are remembered with reverence on Dia de los Muertos, and their spirits are enticed back among the living. Traditional items featured in the altars can include sugar skulls, samples of the deceased person’s favorite food, pan de muertos (bread with a small human figurine baked inside), seeds, flowers, portraits of the dead, candles, alcohol (to toast the arrival of spirits), and papel picado (decorative perforated paper which represents the fragile nature of life).

I don’t know whose spirits are being summoned by this particular altar. I can tell that precious memories are being kept alive among the living, and that those memories contain whole lifetimes of love.

Powerful symbols of life, love, hope and renewal on display in this colorful outdoor altar.
Powerful symbols of life, love, hope and renewal on display in this colorful outdoor altar.
In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a joyous celebration of the dead. It is an important day in culturally rich San Diego.
In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a joyous celebration of the dead. It is a beloved time in culturally rich San Diego.
A beautiful outdoor Dia de los Muertos altar in Sherman Heights. An ordinary family cherishes extraordinary memories.
A beautiful outdoor Dia de los Muertos altar in Sherman Heights. An ordinary family cherishes extraordinary memories.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

10 thoughts on “Alive in memory: one Dia de los Muertos altar.”

  1. This was a very interesting walk! I really didn’t know much about what the Day of The Dead meant to people. It’s certainly a beautiful personal altar and a special way to remember the person. I think it’s lovely that people can express these feelings publicly. It’s a shame many of us feel we can’t talk about loved ones who have died for fear of making others uncomfortable. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Richard,
    I know Faraday’s Castle and Terri Webster Schrandt. Coincidence?
    I am here to let you know we are definitely on for tomorrow’s guest post. Please respond to answer reader comments. Thank you!
    Janice

    Liked by 1 person

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