Halloween and Dia de los Muertos- SF style

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By Kimberly Charles

Dressed up for Dia de los Muertos!

Since moving to California from New York almost 15 years ago, one of the many aspects of living here that I love is the tradition of Dia de los Muertos following quickly on the heels of Halloween.  I live in the Mission district, historically a neighborhood populated by Mexican, Central American and South American families, many of whom have been here for generations if not over a century.  The Mission District, named as such for the Mission Dolores church, which is San Francisco’s oldest surviving building (built in 1776), was one of the missions along the Camino Real from Southern California all the way up to Marin County where the last mission stands in San Rafael.  Not only is my neighborhood known for its contemporary food scene, we have the highest amount of Michelin ratings in the city, but it is also closely tied to the Mexican food culture.   Given that the Mexican culture pays equal tribute to those who have passed as well as those who are living, each year on November 2nd, right outside my home, the procession of Dia de los Muertos begins http://www.dayofthedeadsf.org.   People bring photos, light candles and offer tributes to loved ones.   In tribute, we dress up in traditional costume and walk the procession to Garfield Park where many have set up memory trees with notes and photos hanging from the branches or mini shrines in honor of a loved one.  

We have a great tradition now at my 1900 Victorian home of having adults dress in Halloween costume on October 31st handing out treats to over 300 kids from the Mission neighborhood, followed by joining the procession 2 days later along with 10,000 people who come together to pay tribute.  It’s something to experience and it is a great way to connect with the local community.   I will make a tequila based cocktail for my friends and guests who are joining me, also commemorating the 50th anniversary of my favorite film, To Kill a Mockingbird http://liquor.com/recipes/tequila-mockingbird/

Many Bay Area bars and restaurants commemorate the tradition of Dia de Los Muertos, take a look at what Joanne Weir’s new restaurant Copita Tequileria y Comida http://www.copitarestaurant.com did for a decorative altar.  It’s a special time here in San Francisco, if you don’t live here, try to make a point to come and visit.