Celebrate the Dead on the Central Coast

By Gretchen Ammerman | Monday, October 21, 2019

Growing up near a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, my sister and I looked forward to our local Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration almost as much as Halloween. 

For one evening in early November, hundreds of people would gather, many with faces painted to resemble skulls and wearing brightly colored clothes of velvet and lace and carrying candles. After sundown, the group would proceed down an alley where local graffiti artists were given free reign to decorate garage doors with art celebrating their culture. The colorful paintings looked especially beautiful by the light of hundreds of candles. Though my ancestry is more about beers and bratwurst, I loved immersing myself in this traditional Mexican celebration of ancestors who have passed away. 

For the fourth year, Driftwood Public Library will be hosting a celebration of the Mexican holiday on Friday, November 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. Driftwood’s celebration will consist of music, dancing, face-painting and an altar (ofrenda) to which anyone can add a remembrance of loved ones they wish to honor. It will also be a community-style potluck, in which those attending may bring a favorite dish to share.

An ofrenda decorated with photos and other remembrances is an important part of the annual Day of the Dead celebration at Driftwood Public Library.

The library has created a history of the event:

“Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico developed from ancient traditions among its pre-Columbian cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 3,000 years. The festival that developed into the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the Lady of the Dead, corresponding to the modern La Calavera Catrina.

Day of the Dead is not a Mexican version of Halloween. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration. Day of the Dead festivities unfold in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. While the theme is death, the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members.”

Driftwood Public Library is located at 801 SW Highway 101 on the second floor of the City Hall building.

If you've overdone it on the tasty treats at the library, head down the coast to Newport to work off the extra calories at the second annual Dia De Los Muertos Endurance Run. The all-trail race features a 24 Hour, 12 Hour and 6 Hour option and starts on Saturday, November 2.

The start/finish line will be adorned with a special ofrenda. Before the race, runners can visit the ofrenda to leave offerings that honor deceased ancestors and loved ones. These offerings of photos, flowers, fruits, drinks, trinkets and written messages provide runners the opportunity to add a unique layer of depth, gratitude and purpose to their endurance run. A custom 100 Mile and 50 Mile DDLM Endurance Run belt buckle will be presented to any runner who completes 100 or 50 miles, and every participant who completes a minimum of 20 miles will receive a finisher medal. 

Music and a performance by Huehca Omeyocan, an Aztec dance group from Portland, will help finish the Dia De Los Muertos Endurance Run. 

I participated in the 12 Hour race last year, which started at midnight and ended at noon. As I ran through the night, mushrooms glowed in the light from my headlamp and sections of trail, festooned with white lights, created a fairyland atmosphere. I’ll be back for sure this year to try to go farther than the 26 miles I ran last year.

Have you participated in a Dia de los Muertos event? Share about it in the comments section below.

And for other things to do on the Central Coast, check out our Daytime Events calendar. For evening entertainment our Nightlife page steers you to the top happenings on the Central Coast.

About the Author Gretchen Ammerman
Gretchen Ammerman received an Environmental Science degree from Humboldt State University and was soon running a state environmental agency in Hawaii. She gave it up for the glamorous life of the freelance writer. This led to steady employment as a newspaper editor in Lincoln City, OR, where she knew she was doing well when the paper was threatened with a lawsuit within a week. Though the work was rewarding, she returned to freelance writing to have more freedom to explore the beautiful state of Oregon with her adopted dog, Scout.