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Davis, California

Friday, June 14, 2024

Davis Cemetery to host annual Día de los Muertos celebration 

Fresh marigolds and a public alter will be available for Davis community members to honor loved ones

By LA RISSA VASQUEZ — city@theaggie.org


From Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, the Davis Cemetery District and Arboretum will host its annual Día de los Muertos celebration. A public “ofrenda,” or altar, will be set up outside of the cemetery’s administrative office located at 820 Pole Line Rd., and people are encouraged to leave pictures and mementos for loved ones who have passed at the ofrenda when they visit the cemetery.

Fresh “cempasúchil” (marigolds), “pan de muerto” (bread of the dead), paper flowers, a small offering of water, salt and candles will also be available for residents to set at the ofrenda or at their loved ones’ graves.

Signs with QR codes that guide visitors to a welcome address provided by Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza, as well as a playlist recorded by a local mariachi band, will be located around the grounds. Visitors will also be able to read about the history of Día de los Muertos on educational signage placed throughout the cemetery ground walkways. 

Jessica Smithers, the Davis Cemetery District Superintendent, is in charge of organizing the event which began in October 2011.

The Davis Cemetery District is pleased to host a variety of public events on our grounds,” Smithers said. “We are always looking for community groups and/or individuals to plan community outreach events.”

Volunteer forms can be found on the Davis Cemetery District’s website for anyone who would like to plan an event or volunteer at one. Smithers said that having volunteers and community members at events like this is important, as they are opportunities to both educate people and celebrate. 

“For community members that don’t have loved ones buried here, I think it’s really nice for those community members to come out and really witness how families honor their loved ones,” Smithers said.

Juan Carlos Galindo, a fourth-year aerospace engineering and Spanish double major, explained the two-day celebration and its historical relevance.

“The first day is [the] day of all saints,” Galindo said. “Nov. 1, people celebrate children who passed away, people who are not adults. The second day is the day of the dead, when people celebrate and commemorate [all] people who pass away.” 

All offerings are made and candles are lit on Nov. 1, and those flames are not extinguished until midnight on Nov. 2, when Día de los Muertos officially concludes. 

Fernanda Serna, a fourth-year statistics and economics double major and student intern at the Cross Cultural Center, talked about the impact of Día de los Muertos in the U.S. 

“We don’t see celebrations like this in American culture,” Serna said. “So for non-Mexican students, just having the opportunity to celebrate their loved ones in this way is respectful of the culture, and it is really meaningful.” 

Día de los Muertos is a multicultural celebration, and many people incorporate their own traditions, or build new ones, into the festivities. One such person is Judy Catambay, a local art teacher who painted a mural for the Davis Cemetery’s celebration two years ago. Catambay shared how she celebrated the holiday.

“It’s not part of my background growing up, but I try to honor it every year and try to teach it,” Catambay said. “Initially, I was going to do [a mural for] Mother’s Day because my mother was going through lung cancer, and I wanted to do something to honor her, and then she passed. The mural was trying to incorporate the holiday and her life.”

Catambay said that 2020 was a difficult year for people losing loved ones, and that the timing partly inspired her work.

“I wanted to capture my mom’s legacy,” Catambay said. “Through her life, she showed me a lot of perseverance and kindness, and I really wanted to capture that. So that was my main objective, to honor my mom because that was a recent loss at the time, and it was right at 2020, so there was kind of [a] loss for the whole world. So to me, it was a way to have a meaningful experience because it was a hard time for everybody.” \

Día de los Muertos begins Nov. 1, but the cemetery will have the public altar and educational signage displayed for three days, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. More information about the event and future community celebrations can be found on the Davis Cemetery District website.


Written by: La Rissa Vasquez — city@theaggie.org