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.

“Why did they have to shoot him so many times as he lay on the ground?” said Adriana Camera.

“Why did they have to shoot him so many times as he lay on the ground?” said Adriana Camera. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

“I remember that before Alex died, we trusted in the police and the city government. But after Alex died we lost all trust,” said Adriana Camera, reading a letter from Alex Nieto’s parents at the spot on Bernal Hill where he was shot by police in March 2014.

“I remember that before Alex died, we trusted in the police and the city government. But after Alex died we lost all trust,” said Adriana Camera, reading a letter from Alex Nieto’s parents at the spot on Bernal Hill where he was shot by police in March 2014. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

“They were all comilones — they all liked eating a lot,” laughed Adriana Camera about Alex Nieto and Amilcar Perez-Lopez, saying Dia de los Muertos was about “honoring the funny parts” of those who have passed away.

“They were all comilones — they all liked eating a lot,” laughed Adriana Camera about Alex Nieto and Amilcar Perez-Lopez, saying Dia de los Muertos was about “honoring the funny parts” of those who have passed away. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

Alex Nieto chalk

Chalk hearts for those killed by police near Alex Nieto’s memorial on Bernal Hill. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

Rashawn Williams memorial

A memorial to Rashawn Williams, a 14-year-old boy who was stabbed by another teenager last year. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

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Photo by Laura Wenus.

No, she's not headless – Sue Laurita is a costume designer and had the idea to create an altar around herself. Above her head, a banner reads "Amor Eterno" But eternal love isn't necessarily dead – That's open to interpretation, Laurita says.

No, she’s not headless – Sue Laurita is a costume designer and had the idea to create an altar around herself. Above her head, a banner reads “Amor Eterno” But eternal love isn’t necessarily dead – That’s open to interpretation, Laurita says. Photo by Laura Wenus

Mary Ann Statler travels from San Louis Obispo to create these altars – this is her fourth year at Garfield Square. The mixed media assemblage artist does it "as an offering, as a gift."

Mary Ann Statler travels from San Louis Obispo to create these altars – this is her fourth year at Garfield Square. The mixed media assemblage artist does it “as an offering, as a gift.” Photo by Laura Wenus

Delia and Ron Solis set up this altar to honor their son Nicolas. The 27-year-old was born in Bernal Heights and grew up in San Francisco, spending much of his time in the Mission. At 25 he became a journeyman plumber, but later went on to travel the world.

Delia and Ron Solis set up this altar to honor their son Nicolas. The 27-year-old was born in Bernal Heights and grew up in San Francisco, spending much of his time in the Mission. At 25 he became a journeyman plumber, but later went on to travel the world. Photo by Laura Wenus

Nicolas Solis traveled to Thailand on a sailing vessel in 2011. There, he met the love of his life. But Solis died in a traffic accident in 2011, on his way to work teaching Thai children English. Like in this photo, "that was who he was, always smiling," his parents said.

Nicolas Solis traveled to Thailand on a sailing vessel in 2011. There, he met the love of his life. But Solis died in a traffic accident in 2011, on his way to work teaching Thai children English. Like in this photo, “that was who he was, always smiling,” his parents said. Photo by Laura Wenus

Lisa Rodriguez assembled a traditional three-tiered Mexican altar for her two-year-old nephew Santino, her daughter's uncle, and her own her grandfather and uncle. Sweets were laid out for the little one, while the BBQ chips are for a DJ, producer and family man who happened to also be an excellent barbecuer.

Lisa Rodriguez assembled a traditional three-tiered Mexican altar for her two-year-old nephew Santino, her daughter’s uncle, and her own her grandfather and uncle. Sweets were laid out for the little one, while the BBQ chips are for a DJ, producer and family man who happened to also be an excellent barbecuer. Photo by Laura Wenus

Rachel Koslofsky asked the Oakland first-graders she worked with on an altar whimsical questions like this one. At first, some of the children were spooked by thinking about death and skeletons. Eventually, they became comfortable, putting the holiday in context. As a treat, they got to get their faces painted and dance. Which dance? Whip and nae nae of course.

Rachel Koslofsky asked the Oakland first-graders she worked with on an altar whimsical questions like this one. At first, some of the children were spooked by thinking about death and skeletons. Eventually, they became comfortable, putting the holiday in context. As a treat, they got to get their faces painted and dance. Which dance? Whip and nae nae of course. Photo by Laura Wenus

Ami Kanani arrived at Garfield Square with this altar in a box, dedicated to her mother-in-law and assembled with the help of her children. Peggy Chima, remembered therein, collected rocks and copper pennies and loved chocolate – but Kanani's children pointed out some of the chocolate in the altar had mysteriously disappeared by the time the box was put in place.

Ami Kanani arrived at Garfield Square with this altar in a box, dedicated to her mother-in-law and assembled with the help of her children. Peggy Chima, remembered therein, collected rocks and copper pennies and loved chocolate – but Kanani’s children pointed out some of the chocolate in the altar had mysteriously disappeared by the time the box was put in place. photo by Laura Wenus

Sarah Wells of the arts collective Cuddlefish coaxes a few sparks to life to burn aromatic herbs.

Sarah Wells of the arts collective Cuddlefish coaxes a few sparks to life to burn aromatic herbs. Photo by Laura Wenus

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A dancer pauses during the opening ceremony.

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Photo by Laura Wenus.

Drummers set the beat of their portion of the procession up 24th Street.

Drummers set the beat of their portion of the procession up 24th Street. Photo by Laura Wenus

couple

Photo by Laura Wenus.

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Photo by Laura Wenus.

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Photo by Laura Wenus.

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“No More Evictions” calls Roberto Hernandez, holding a sign promoting the Mission moratorium voters will decide on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Photo by Laura Wenus

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Photo by Laura Wenus.

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Photo by Laura Waxmann.

"The way that we wake up the spirits is with that drumroll," said Pedro Gomez, musical director of the youth percussion ensemble Loco Bloco, before their performance at the Dia de los Muertos celbration on 22nd and Bryant streets.

“The way that we wake up the spirits is with that drumroll,” said Pedro Gomez, musical director of the youth percussion ensemble Loco Bloco, before their performance at the Dia de los Muertos celebration on 22nd and Bryant streets. Photo by Laura Waxmann

Loco Bloco, a youth percussion ensemble, performed at the Dia de los Muertos celebration ceremony, hosted by Galeria de la Raza on 22nd and Bryant streets on November 2.

Loco Bloco, a youth percussion ensemble, performed at the Dia de los Muertos celebration ceremony, hosted by Galería de la Raza on 22nd and Bryant streets on November 2. Photo by Laura Waxmann

"I'm letting ago of my mama." Andrew Greenberg and Annette Ash

“I’m letting go of my mama.” Andrew Greenberg and Annette Ash. Photo by Laura Waxmann

"Dia de los Muertos is the soul of the city, and its the antithesis of the commercialized Halloween. I participate every year." Victoria Doggett

“Dia de los Muertos is the soul of the city, and its the antithesis of the commercialized Halloween. I participate every year,”  said Victoria Doggett. Photo by Laura Waxmann