20 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 26-november 1, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Spooky Season The basic components of an altar or ofrenda represent four elements: water (here, as a glass of water); fire (food or candles); air (papel picado, at top); and earth (marigolds and personal objects to remember a loved one). Crucifixes are also often incorporated, reflecting the four cardinal directions—and reflecting the significant Catholic influence on the originally Indigenous Mexican custom. The Day of the Dead invites traditions old and new. It can be an intimate affair with a small altar and offering at a home, or a collective celebration that brings people from different cultures together. The diversity of observances is fitting, because death has no borders. Various families, institutions and organizations celebrate the Day of the Dead collectively, inviting anyone to participate. People are encouraged to bring photographs, flowers, colorful paper, offerings and objects to build and decorate large, beautiful altars and create a bridge where people alive and dead can reunite. Jose Ortiz, a local painter and founder of the Salinas arts nonprofit Hijos Del Sol, has celebrated the Day of the Dead since he can remember; it’s a tradition his family has observed for generations. Ortiz’s ancestors are Tepehuanes, an Indigenous group from the Mexican northwest. Their celebration lasted for several months and began in June when they planted marigold seeds in the fields, then harvested months later. “Since the idea started growing that our ancestors are coming, our grandparents would teach us that we have to receive them with an offering full of life,” Ortiz says. Dionne Ybarra, a Pacific Grove resident and second-generation Mexican American, didn’t grow up celebrating Día de los Muertos. She reclaimed the tradition as an adult, first making a small altar at her home seven years ago. She went on to share it, and now starts a collective community altar on her front porch, where anyone can bring images and objects to honor their loved ones, and light a candle. The altar is meant to keep friends’ and family members’ memories alive. It’s also a way to share the tradition. “I’m a minority culture in Pacific Grove. I just wanted to find a way to honor my culture and to really share it with other people,” Ybarra says. Ybarra starts her altar on Nov. 1, while listening to Mexican music and having conversations with her late relatives, including her grandfather and Uncle Frankie, reviving happy memories. The Day of the Dead is a tradition that has been around for more than 3,000 years. It’s a moment for people to celebrate and spend time with loved ones who have died, including friends, family, pets. It isn’t about marking absence, but instead a new phase and constant rebirth, based on the belief that their souls set off on a journey from Mictlán, the kingdom of death, to visit Earth to spend time with the living. The Day of Dead is considered a World Heritage tradition by UNESCO and it is the most well-known Mexican tradition worldwide. In 2017, its visibility increased significantly after Pixar Animation Studios released Coco, an animated film centered around Día de los Muertos. “It opened a gate for Living Folklore Altars are a heartwarming Mexican tradition that celebrates a universal life event: death. By Celia Jiménez Daniel Dreifuss 6 Old bones—an archeological mystery 20 Celebrate the departed 22 A great storyteller, remembered 24 Local ghost stories 26 Trick-or-treating downtown 31 Poems for Día de los Muertos 36 Sweet treats for Halloween 38 Pumpkin spice cocktails