Hundreds of people gathered in the Mission last night to watch a procession of skeletons on stilts, indigenous dancers, skeleton-painted faces, and candle-holding participants commemorating their passed ancestors and loved ones.
Crowds thronged 24th Street, spilling from packed sidewalks onto the street, with their phones overhead to catch the march going by. Some darted into barber shops, where they could get their face painted for a few dollars, while others ate bacon-wrapped hot dogs, pupusas and other treats from street vendors or crowded the many Mexican bakeries.
The festivities began at the corner of 22nd and Bryant, which came to life as community members gathered around a small stage that featured local musicians and poets. The celebration was hosted by Galeria de la Raza and featured performances by Loco Bloco, a youth percussion ensemble, hip-hop artist Chhoti Maa, and the Afro-Puerto Rican bomba group Taller Bombalele.
“We are not only having to deal with the missing of those that have passed, but those who are still alive but no longer here because of displacement and gentrification,” said comedian and writer Marga Gomez, who moderated the celebration ceremony that took place in front of Galeria’s digital mural. “There are people missing from our community.”
Writer and hip hop artist Chhoti Maa addressed colonization and the loss of culture in her lyrical raps during the ceremony that started at 6 p.m., and Nauhxa, a cultural Mexica educator, spoke about the importance of letting go of the past and embracing life through death.
“The end goal is to die, because then we kill whatever is not serving us,” said Nauhxa. “We have to remember to let the things go that weigh us down so that we can begin again.”
The evening began differently for others, however. Some joined a small group on Bernal Hill to commemorate the police shooting of Alex Nieto, visiting the sites where Rashawn Williams and Amilcar Perez-Lopez died as they made their way down to the Mission. Others went to Garfield Park at 25th and Harrison for the Festival of Altars, setting up memorials and lighting candles to honor those who have passed away.
And as usual, the night was not without its political overtones: “Yes on I” posters and advocates, as well as eviction-themed altars, were plentiful. Supporters of Franciso Herrera could be spotted with their light green signs, and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was on 24th St. near Mission shaking hands with possible supporters.
Joe was born in Sweden, where the Chilean half of his family received asylum after fleeing Pinochet, and spent his early childhood in Chile; he moved to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating. He then spent time in advocacy as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.