Dia de Muertos celebration set for Saturday at Esther Short Park

Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition, is now an annual event in downtown Vancouver

It is a Mexican tradition but with a worldwide connection.

“We all have people who have passed away. We all have loved ones who have left before us,” said Ambar Raybuck, who is from Mexico but now lives in Camas. “We’re sharing a little bit of our culture. It’s something we can connect with anyone, every culture in the world, in a beautiful, positive way.”

Marianna Cruz, a student at Washington State University Vancouver, created this piece of art, a Cantina, in honor of the city of Vancouver’s celebration of Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The event is Saturday at Esther Short Park. Art courtesy of Marianna Cruz

Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is coming soon and an annual event at Esther Short Park to celebrate Day of the Dead will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday, with dancing, music, food, colorful costumes, and more.

Raybuck has two daughters who will be performing.

“We do this to stay connected to our roots and bring our children so they can continue to be connected to their culture,” Raybuck said.

Leading the celebration at the park again this year will be Anna Cruz, the president of Vancouver Ballet Folklorico. 

A couple years ago, the event started with a dozen children. It moved to Esther Short Park a year ago and drew a big, curious crowd. This year, 35 children will perform at an event presented by the VBF and put on by the city.

There will be a “cemetery” built, as well as a remembrance wall. Other vendors are joining the event this year to sell food and more. Altars will be set up, too.

Some of the faces of the Day of the Dead celebration Saturday night. Photo by Paul Valencia
More faces and colors from Day of the Dead celebration. Photo by Paul Valencia
An image from the Day of the Dead event at Esther Short Park on Saturday. Photo by Paul Valencia
Images from the Day of the Dead festival at Esther Short Park last year. This year’s event, scheduled for Saturday, will be bigger, with more dancers and more decorations. Photos by Paul Valencia

The festivities begin at 4 p.m., rain or shine, and are expected to last four hours. Those in attendance as night falls will witness hundreds of glowing luminaries. 

Day of the Dead is traditionally recognized on Nov. 1 and 2, but some celebrate it for a couple weeks before and/or after those dates.

Many who celebrate paint their faces, with half of their faces made to look like a skull. That is to symbolize half dead, half alive, Cruz said. 

“Come experience the honoring of people who have passed,” Cruz said. “We all lose people. We are all heading that way. The Mexican tradition is not to fear death but to mock death. We make fun of it.”

Day of the Dead is the opportunity to celebrate those who have passed and remember the joy they brought to their loved ones.

“We feel their spirits and their souls. We move on and make it as colorful, vibrant, and happy as possible instead of somber and so sad,” Cruz said. “It’s kind of healing, to move on.”

Anna Cruz’s daughter Marianna, a student at Washington State University Vancouver, created some of the graphic art that the city is using to promote the event.

Marianna was inspired by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who created the most memorable Catrina, some call Mexico’s Lady of Death. Part of the lore of the piece is that we are the same when we are dead.

“In the end, we’re all skeletons,” Marianna Cruz said. “We’re all equal.”

Everyone. Everywhere.

“Just being able to gather, celebrate is important for us,” Anna Cruz said. “We feel the City of Vancouver has embraced the tradition and the culture. It makes us feel we belong here no matter what.”

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