Altars displayed at city’s history park Nov. 1

La Calavera Catrina. Zinc etching by José Guadalupe Posada, 1910. Source – illustrationchronicles

By Staff Report

The Morgan Hill Historical Society will present a special Día De Los Muertos Community Altars event to honor this beloved Hispanic holiday tradition.

The display of festively decorated altars will be held outdoors at the Villa Mira Monte, the city’s history park located at 17860 Monterey Road,  Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For thousands of years before Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, the Aztec custom of celebrating the dead was already established, said Kathy Chavez Napoli,  a board member and chair of the History Education Committee of the Morgan Hill Historical Society.

With the arrival of Catholicism, All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2), and indigenous traditions merged and the Aztec days were changed to match those of the Catholic Church.  Images of La Virgen de Guadalupe (Blessed Virgin Mary) are now often placed on the top level of the altars.

“Día de los Muertos is a time to celebrate and honor loved ones who have passed on and to celebrate the renewal of life through food, music and dancing,” Napoli said. “This does not mean that the departed are not mourned, but tears would only make a difficult journey from the underworld more dangerous.”

Family members unite to remember and honor the dead by sharing stories of the deceased and it is an opportunity for the deceased to commune with the living, she said.

Altars are built in the home and may consist of two (Heaven and Earth) or three levels (Heaven, Earth, Underworld), according to local customs and traditions.  The levels represent the steps a soul must take to reach heaven.

To register for Morgan Hill Historical Society’s event, send an email to [email protected]. Sign up for a 15-minute time slot for yourself or group of up to 5 people. Only 40 time slots are available. COVID-19 guidelines will be in force.

This event is funded by the Santa Clara County Historic Grant Program.