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Crosscurrents

Meditating on loss while celebrating life

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Martina Castro
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“EL MAR DE JULIA,” an altar by La Tania & Adrian";s:

El Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican holiday in which people honor the spirits of those who’ve passed. 

The holiday is actually celebrated on two days: November 1 is Day of the Innocents, when the souls of children are remembered. And the following day, November 2, is the one most widely recognized as Day of the Dead. It’s not a somber holiday — in fact, it’s a colorful and joyous commemoration because indigenous Mexicans don’t believe souls die. Instead, they say our souls leave our bodies and continue living in a sacred space until they return to visit their relatives. It’s a tradition commonly celebrated all over California, but over on the East Coast — in Northern Virginia — it’s not common at all.

That’s where KALW’s Martina Castro grew up, and Day of the Dead is still pretty new for her. Castro decided to celebrate it for the first time by contributing to an altar at the SOMArts exhibit in San Francisco. She tells us more about how this experience introduced her to both a new holiday, and to many new neighbors, past and present.

This story originally aired in September  2011.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full story.  

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