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Day of the Dead event at Vancouver library a ‘celebration of life’

Soledad Iniguez, of Vancouver, narrated a demonstration of a Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, ceremony in front of a ceremonial altar containing photos of deceased loved ones. As children lined up to present gifts, she explained how many levels altars typically contain (seven), the traditional colors used and the symbolism behind each gift.

The ceremony — along with performances preceding and following it — was a reminder of how celebrants view the traditional Mexican holiday: an opportunity to festively connect with the souls of loved ones and pray for their well-being.

“The altar represents the union and the pass-through of the spirit that comes to see us on the Day of the Dead,” Iniguez said.

The demonstration took place at the Vancouver Community Library’s Columbia Room, which was packed with people Sunday. Paper-cut decorations, the altar and a mock gravesite surrounded performers during their various displays of Mexican culture.

Ismael Jaramillo and Anna Cruz performed jarabe tapatío, the national dance of Mexico that is often called the Mexican hat dance. The dance incorporates several elements of Mexican culture. Cruz, the organizer of Sunday’s event, wore a china poblana dress, while Jaramillo dressed as a charro, a traditional horseman.

Jaramillo belongs to Escuela Charra Los Mendoza, an organization in Ridgefield that teaches charrería, a competitive event similar to rodeo. Several students performed trick ropes during Sunday’s celebration — including Jair Guitron, 14, of Ridgefield.

“I don’t want to see my heritage go to waste. Someone needs to teach these guys that knowledge,” Jaramillo said while gesturing toward Guitron. “We’re part of this community. They know what they represent as Mexicans but also as Americans.”

The china poblana dress that Cruz, of Vancouver, wore was particularly fitting for the holiday. It was designed by Martha Hermosillo-Muchow, a Hazel Dell resident who died in May at 79 years old.

Hermosillo-Muchow was active in local Mexican cultural groups. Her large portrait was situated in a prominent spot on the altar.

“She was like a mom and a friend,” Cruz said.

Hermosillo-Muchow’s friendliness was evident in her smile and a reminder that, as Iniguez put it, “The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life.”


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