Dia de los Muertos brings Latinos and community together

About 3,000 people took to the streets of downtown Lake Worth to celebrate their deceased loved ones Wednesday for Día de los Muertos in the yearly procession that draws people from cultures all around the county.

“Latinos from different countries came together and Americans did as well,” creative director Jose R. Mendez said.

Originally from Guatemala, Mendez moved to Lake Worth as his family escaped the guerrillas.

“I’ve been in Lake Worth since diapers,” he said. “So I want to make this event as big as possible for my community.” 

And he’s been hard at work.

Mendez wanted the Day of the Dead celebration to be as original as possible, so he traveled to Mexico for inspiration. He described their celebration as the French Quarter times 10 and wanted to bring that passion to Florida.

He paired up with local commissioner Andy AmorosoLULA Lake Worth and the Lake Worth CRA, who helped provide over $14,000 in grant money for the event.

“I’m fortunate to work with people that are as passionate as I am,” Mendez said.

The organizers gave Mendez a lot of creative freedom. He was able to teach an altar workshop and exhibit the final products at the event. The altars or “ofrendas” represented various countries like Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Belize, Brazil and Puerto Rico. He said Hispanic countries tend to have some form of celebration of the dead even though they may not have the same name.

“It’s usually countries that tend to be very indigenous,” he said.

Cecilia Calderon of Puerto Rico celebrates a variation of the Day of the Dead called All Saints’ Day. The West Palm Beach cake decorator payed homage to her deceased grandma and uncle with an altar.

“This is a very personal altar for me,” she said. “They’re greatly missed and have been gone for a few years.” 

She included photos of her loved ones, flowers, pan de los muertos, a rotating sugar skull at the top and maracas for her grandmother’s love of music.

Mendez hopes the event keeps expanding. He wants to include West Coast artists for an authentic feel and more workshops for the community, including one for kids to learn about the significance of this holiday.

“There’s still a big misconception between Halloween and the Day of the Dead,” he said.

Carla Trivino is a Mundo Hispánico reporter working out of The Palm Beach Post. For the latest news from Mundo Hispánico click here and to see what’s going on in the county, follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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