TO­DAY’S HIGH­LIGHT

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Me­gan Janet­sky

Sil San­doval sits in a lawn chair in Steele In­dian School Park, sip­ping a QuikTrip soda next to her daugh­ter and mother.

But the scene un­fold­ing around her isn’t a typ­i­cal Sun­day soc­cer game or fam­ily pic­nic. It’s Phoenix’s an­nual Día de los Muer­tos fes­ti­val, and the tra­di­tion is hold­ing strong.

“Ev­ery year, I come out here,” San­doval said, her face and chest coated in skeleton paint and adorned with red

and green gems. “It’s a bunch of loved ones we’re re­mem­ber­ing. It’s noth­ing like Hal­loween. It’s noth­ing scary.”

The beat of drums and the gen­tle hum of a mariachi gui­tar floats over San­doval. Her hair is wrapped in a bun and topped with a flow­ered head dress re­sem­bling that of La Ca­t­rina, a fa­mous im­age cre­ated by Mex­i­can artist José Guadalupe Posada.

‘We want to share the beauty’

Día de los Muer­tos — Day of the Dead — is a Mex­i­can tra­di­tion that hon­ors and cel­e­brates friends and fam­ily mem­bers who have died. Fam­i­lies of­ten gather at rel­a­tives’ graves to re­mem­ber their lives, and many make and dec­o­rate al­tars in their homes.

This year’s Phoenix fes­ti­val, or­ga­nized by the Phoenix Cul­tural Coali­tion, fea­tured drum­mers, tra­di­tional dancers, a chil­dren’s mariachi band and a hand­ful of masked en­ter­tain­ers. Cir­cling the cel­e­bra­tion were rows of booths with com­mu­nity artists and food ven­dors.

The fes­ti­val dates back to 1980, when it be­gan in Mesa. The goal be­hind its cre­ation was to show­case Mex­i­can cul­ture where it of­ten wasn’t em­braced, ac­cord­ing to Car­men Guer­rero, Cul­tural Coali­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“Our food, our mu­sic, our dances — ev­ery­thing con­trib­utes to the bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety,” Guer­rero said. “We want to share all the beauty that we bring to our com­mu­nity.”

In 2005, the coali­tion moved the fes­ti­val to Phoenix’s Mar­garet T. Hance Park, later re­lo­cat­ing it again after it out­grew the site. Guests con­tinue to gather each year to both mourn and re­joice.

Min­gling with the con­stant hum of mu­sic com­ing from the stage Sun­day were the quiet chants of prayer groups. The smell of in­cense hov­ered over al­tars dec­o­rated with pic­tures and bright or­ange and yel­low flow­ers.

“It’s im­por­tant for us to cel­e­brate who we are,” Guer­rero said.

MICHAEL CHOW/THE RE­PUB­LIC

Dancers with Bal­let Folk­lorico Quet­za­lli from Chan­dler pre­pare to per­form at the sixth An­nual Dia de Los Muer­tos PHX Fes­ti­val at Steele In­dian School Park in Phoenix on Sun­day.

PHO­TOS BY MICHAEL CHOW/THE RE­PUB­LIC

Dancers with Bal­let Folk­lorico Quet­za­lli per­form at the Día de Los Muer­tos PHX Fes­ti­val.

Natalie Valdez is gets help from Shalena Baldene­gro be­fore per­form­ing with Bal­let Folk­lorico Quet­za­lli at the sixth an­nual Día de Los Muer­tos PHX Fes­ti­val on Sun­day.

MICHAEL CHOW/ THE RE­PUB­LIC

Dancers with Ollin Yolitztli Dance Academy in Phoenix per­form at the sixth an­nual Día de Los Muer­tos PHX Fes­ti­val at Steele In­dian School Park in Phoenix on Sun­day.

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