Community members commemorate life for Day of the Dead

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Courtesy of Rachel Angulo

Mariachi Sirenas band members pose in front of La Cocinita food truck at Sunday’s Day of the Dead celebration in James Park Soccer Field.

Angeli Mittal, Reporter

Members of the Evanston community sang, danced and shared Mexican foods, including tacos and churros, as part of the city’s Day of the Dead celebration at the James Park Soccer Field this Sunday.

The Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos begins on Nov. 1 and signifies a time for families to honor and celebrate the lives of their ancestors. In the past, the city has hosted the festival indoors, but the pandemic prompted the city to hold the event outdoors.

All-female mariachi band Mariachi Sirenas performed at the event. It was the band’s first stage performance of the year, Ibet Herrera, a band member, said.

Herrera said she enjoyed the opportunity to play onstage and connect with her cultural roots Sunday.

“It was really nice to see everybody with their chairs, their blankets, all bundled up, and just enjoying our music, knowing that they came out in this cold to hear us and to celebrate,” Herrera said.

Herrera said she and other Mariachi Sirenas members connected with the crowd. Residents sang along to their songs and young girls told Herrera they aspired to play music like her band, she said.

“As we were about to start, people just started coming in,” Herrera said. “Hearing people laugh and hearing people do the ‘grito,’ which is the Mexican yell, to our songs, singing along with us while we were playing … it was amazing.”

Herrera is a first-generation American, and when she moved to the country, she didn’t want to lose touch with cultural traditions — which is why Sunday’s event was especially important to her.

Like Herrera, the violinist of the Mariachi Sirenas, Laura Velázquez, is also a first-generation American. Velázquez said Día de los Muertos allows her to connect with her grandparents, honor the “fruitful lives” they lived and share the experiences they’ve passed on to her.

This year, she can’t celebrate with her extended family due to the pandemic. However, she was still able to share the history of the celebration performing with the Mariachi Sirenas and interacting with the audience, Velázquez said.

“The goal is to educate and share what this celebration is, even though it might not be your culture,” Velázquez said. “It’s always fun, it’s always great, to be able to share that with people who are curious about it and would like to partake in the celebration.”

Rachel Angulo, owner of the restaurant La Cocinita, sold Mexican and Venezuelan dishes from her food truck at the event. To comply with social distancing safety measures, residents used an online ordering system to purchase food from La Cocinita.

Even though many aspects of the festival were different this year, Angulo said the band was “charismatic,” there was a good mix of upbeat and solemn songs and the celebration felt festive.

“Everybody was in a really happy mood,” Angulo said. “Between food, the music and the opportunity to gather as a community, people had really good spirits.”

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Twitter: @amittal27

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