consuelo alba
Consuelo Alba. Contributed photo

The community is invited to celebrate Day of the Dead / Día de Muertos in Watsonville Plaza Oct. 27 from 4-9pm. It is a free event, produced by Watsonville Film Festival, filled with tradition and activities for the whole family. Watch the movie “Coco” under the stars at dusk, bring flowers and candles for the community altar, decorate sugar skulls, make luminaries or write a letter to your loved ones. Handmade items by local artists will be for sale at the Mercado de Muertos. New this year are authentic dances rarely seen on this side of the border or in Mexico as they are only performed during Day of the Dead observances.

We spoke with Consuelo Alba, Executive Director of Watsonville Film Festival, to learn more. 

Why/How did WFF get involved in producing this event? How is this event important to the festival and to the Watsonville community?

In 2017, Watsonville Film Festival started showing movies at the Plaza, as a way to make our program accessible to all families in Watsonville, especially Spanish speakers. As soon as we announced we were presenting the movie “Coco” along with art activities and live performances inspired by Day of the Dead, we received a huge response. Hundreds of families came that first year. After six years, Dia de Muertos has become a beloved event in our community and one of the biggest events for our organization.  

Who is the event for? For those who haven’t experienced a Día event, do you have any advice in terms of what to expect?

Dia de Muertos at the Watsonville Plaza is for everyone. It’s for immigrant families who want their children to experience this important Mexican tradition here in California, for Latinos who are proud of their cultural heritage and for people who are not familiar with the tradition. Everyone can experience a beautiful event that keeps the essence of the holiday, which is remembering and honoring our ancestors and dearly departed. We take pride in keeping the celebration as authentic as possible and make it clear that is not Mexican Halloween. People who attend will see community altars, participate in art activities like sugar skull decorations, face-painting and write letters to their loved ones. We also will present live performances, including dances like Xantolo from Veracruz and the Danza de los Diablos from Oaxaca that are rarely seen on this side of the border or in Mexico as they are only performed during Day of the Dead observances. 

How is this particular event meaningful to you personally? What are you most looking forward to? Any highlights we should be aware of?

I grew up with this tradition in Mexico City. I have practiced it all my life. Now I look forward to it even more because I lost both of my parents. This holiday is about connecting and not forgetting those who came before us. It can be a very healing and personal holiday for everyone. Because death is part of the life cycle, and we have all lost loved ones. What’s beautiful about Day of the Dead is that we remember and honor our ancestors and loved ones with lots of color, flowers, music, food and art. Hosting this event at the Watsonville Plaza is very special to me because it is grounded in love and community.  

This year we will feature two artists, a WFF Cine Se Puede Fellow making a film about Day of the Dead and a Oaxacan artist painting live during our event. Also Arte del Corazón will host a Mercado de Muertos, across the street, at the Romo Lawn where the community can purchase unique pieces made by local artists. 

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