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Day of the Dead comes to midtown Sacramento

Notes with messages were posted at memorials at the Day of the Dead celebration in front of the Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento in 2013.
Notes with messages were posted at memorials at the Day of the Dead celebration in front of the Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento in 2013. Sacramento Bee file

Midtown Sacramento will become a shrine to old Mexico this weekend as participants in the Day of the Dead celebration erect elaborate altars to honor departed loved ones.

The celebration, Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, has roots that stretch back to Mexico’s indigenous cultures.

Early Saturday morning at 20th and J streets, families and friends will erect elaborate altars in honor of loved ones who they believe will return in spirit, said organizer Marie Acosta of La Raza Galeria Posada in Sacramento.

Rather than fearing the dead, “We’re dancing, singing, grieving and laughing with them,” Acosta said.

The altars will feature poems, music, photos, 49ers caps, favorite meals and a range of memorabilia associated with the deceased. Those being honored include Victor Hugo Perez Zavala, 24, a Sacramento City College student and activist who was shot to death after a Second Saturday celebration in 2010, an innocent bystander in a gang shootout. The first in his family to go to college, Zavala, who was not in a gang, held gang-prevention workshops at Burbank High, McClatchy High and Sutterville Middle School.

Also being honored is Gerardo Ochoa, a poet and youth leader who committed suicide last August right before his birthday, a victim of acute depression, Acosta said. There will also be altars to a pair of grandparents both claimed by cancer this year; a set of twin boys who died of a rare blood condition; a mariachi singer; and an altar to the Mexican revolution.

The exhibits will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. Saturday’s schedule features a live program beginning at 5 p.m. with music, song, poetry, dance and a parade with two 13-foot papier-mache puppets, Acosta said. The event is free and open to the public.

A dozen dance and music groups from a variety of Mexican states including Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca and Guerrero are scheduled to perform between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday .

Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072.

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