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Tuesday, November 01, 2005 | A 3,000-year-old Mexican tradition, El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, honors and celebrates the memory of those who have died. The holiday is traditionally observed on Nov. 1-2. In Mexico, the celebrations typically take place in cemeteries, where families gather at the site of the deceased’s grave. Colorful altars are constructed in homes, adorned with ofrendas, or offerings to the dead, such as pictures of the dead, marigolds, candles, decorative sugar skulls, pan de muerto (special bread), calaveras (skeletons) and the deceased’s favorite foods, drinks and other personal items.

More festive than morbid, the Dia de los Muertos has been embraced by people of all backgrounds and is the second largest Mexican American holiday in the United States. Take time to remember those who have departed by partaking in the festivities at these local events:

– Traditional, colorful altars adorned with ofrendas honoring departed loved ones will be on display to the public from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1 at the Sherman Heights Community Center, 2258 Island Ave. in Sherman Heights. Info: (619) 232-5181 or www.shermancenter.org.

– Chicano Park wraps up its weekend long Day of the Dead celebration with an overnight candlelight vigil, or velada in Spanish, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1 until 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2. Both solemn and festive, the velada allows people to come together to reminisce and honor the lives of those who have passed away. There will be traditional altars, music and dancers throughout the night to welcome the spirits of the departed believed to visit in the middle of the night. Chicano Park is located under the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. For more information, contact Victor Ochoa at (619) 818-0173.

– Longfellow Elementary School will host its Second Annual Dia de Los Muertos festival 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2. For $5, children ages 3 and up can enjoy an array of activities, including sugar skull decoration, mask making, jewelry making and face painting, as well as entertainment provided by the school’s own ballet folklorico and the Sophia Isidora Circus Academy. Proceeds will benefit the Longfellow PTA. The school is located at 5055 July St. in Clairemont. Info: (619) 276-4206.

– Local poets will honor the deceased through the spoken word at the “Third Annual Dia de Los Muertos Celebration: A Tribute to Fallen Comrades,” presented by the Read CalacArts Collective, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Chicano Perk coffee shop, 129 25th St. in Barrio Logan. Info: (619) 434-9036 or www.redcalacartscollective.org.

– The House of Mexico will celebrate the dead Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Expressions of Mexico Gallery, 1122 Cesar Chavez Parkway in Barrio Logan. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. and include an art exhibit of four women painters paying tribute to Frida Kahlo; a Dia de Los Muertos fashion show with DJ-spun music; short films and documentaries by students at the Art Institute of California, San Diego; and live India tabla (percussion) performance by Light refreshments will be served. Suggested donation is $10.

Art Exhibitions

– Five local artists honor San Diego history and its people in the exhibition “Altered Altars” at Voz Alta, 1544 Broadway in East Village, on display Nov. 1 through Nov. 11. Info: (619) www.vozalta.org

– Thirty local artists will feature their work commemorating people and events of personal significance, along with a community shrine, at the Next Door Gallery, 2063 Beech St. (at 30th) in Golden Hill, through Saturday, Nov. 5. Info: (619) 233-6679 or www.studiomaureen.com.

– An exhibition of Day of the Dead inspired paintings, crosses, ceramic skulls and other works by 15 local artists will be on display through Friday, Nov. 11 at the Expressions of Mexico Gallery, 1122 Cesar Chavez Parkway in Barrio Logan. Info: (619) 232-1699 or www.expressionofmexico.com.

– Students at the MAAC Charter School are inviting people to bring ofrendas to its community altar dedicated to a recent graduate, Gabe Aguirre, who was tragically killed in a traffic accident. The altar is on display 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 24 at the Ojos de Dios Gallery and Library on the school campus at 1385 Third Ave. in Chula Vista. Info: (619) 476-0749 or contact Victor Ochoa at (619) 818-0173.

– VOICE STAFF

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