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Second Annual Day of the Dead is a lively success


By Tammye McDuff


The second annual Dia de los Muertos Festival was presented by the Downey Civic Theatre, November 2, 2014. The newest addition to Downey’s parade of celebrations was an amazing display of food, art, live music, ballet folklorico and the classic Day of the Dead cult film “Macario”. More than 10,000 patrons came to enjoy this family fun and entertainment.


A display of ancestral alters honoring family and friends were on display in the lobby of the Civic Theatre. Judging was done by Mayor Fernando Vasquez and Councilmen Mario Guerra and Alex Saab. Their decisions were based upon size, content, originality and authenticity.


The upstairs lobby of Downey Theatre displayed work form 25 artists’ Dia de los Muertos themed art. The pieces ranged from oils and acrylics to collage and multimedia. Carolina Del Toro along with other volunteers from Downey Arts Coalition selected each artist. The exhibit will be on display for the month of November at the Downey Theatre.

The Theatre courtyard showcased the “Traveling the World/Dando la Vuelta al Mundo” a 22 foot high catrino [skeleton] riding a bike by folk artist Martin Sanchez. Sanchez was born in Michoacán and moved to California in 1984. Like all of Sanchez’s work, this catrino on a bicycle is made of 100 percent recycled “repurposed” materials, often referred to as “found art”. His Riverside studio is a local hangout and tourist attraction. You can find his works throughout Southern California, currently in the Riverside Art Museum.

‘Papel picado’ is cutting designs out of layered colored tissue paper, and then stringing them together to create decorative garlands. Master artisan Aurora Chavez studied with Margret Sosa who studied under Olga Ponce Furginson, generally recognized as the best of her generation. Chavez offered workshops which supplied the paper, chisels, scissors and knives for Festival fans to create and take home a work of papel picado art.

Calaveras de azúcar, which literally translates as ‘skulls of sugar’, is one of the most recognizable icons of Día de los Muertos. Master Decorator Helen Nieto was part of the team at the Los Angeles based Reign Trading Company, the studio that sparked a local revival of this popular, traditional, art form. Nieto lead interactive, hands-on demonstration and provided small sugar skulls and decorations of tinsel, and other embellishments for visitors to create their own calaveras de azúcar.

Mayor’s Vasquez opened the festivities stating the festival commemorates an important Mexican and Latin American tradition also stating he was proud of this grand heritage.

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