Day of the Dead has come and yet again I’m wishing I could experience it in Mexico. But as always, I’m also looking forward to the festivities here in San Francisco. In a city that loves to party publicly from May to October, Day of the Dead always seems to signal a transition into a season that’s a little quieter and darker and naturally brings about inward reflection. It’s a lively, but more subdued celebration.
As it has been noted, there are those who attend the festivities who walk the fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. It’s not as “authentic” as it would be Mexico. But it truthfully reflects the blending of cultures in the Mission District and the City of San Francisco in ways that can be both frustrating and heartwarming.
The procession winds through the heart of the Mission District aglow with candles, the beat of drums, and pictures of the smiling faces of loved ones lost. It ends at a park filled with altars made by the public, some more traditional and dedicated to family, others more creative and dedicated to members of communities of friends or causes or community heroes.
This cultural mash up calls for a musical mash up of songs in Spanish and English on life, death, struggle, and celebration:
La Llorona by Lila Downs
Life Plays by Delinquent Habits
Zapata Se Queda by Lila Downs featuring Totó La Momposina and Celso Piña
Cumbia De Los Muertos by Ozomatli