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Not even distance will stop a community from coming together

Not even distance will stop a community from coming together

 Even in the time of COVID-19, there is still a cause for celebration in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, honoring Día de los Muertos through social distancing and virtual festivities today.

2020 has been a hard year for everyone, and there have been plenty of deaths to honor and grieve for, from people dying in ICE concentration camps and by police violence, to those lost in the fires and who have succumbed to COVID-19. As San Francisco navigates how to open as a city, the Mission community prepared for this year’s Day of the Dead.

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The Marigold Project will be having their 29th virtual Festival of Altars tonight at 7 p.m., showcasing the five community altars to symbolize the connection to the earth and ancestors. They are located in the Mission Cultural Center and will be available for viewing from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. as long as one practices social distancing and wears their masks.

There will be a Virtual Ritual Procession presented by Juan Pablo Gutierrez live from Mission Neighborhood Center’s courtyard that’ll stream on Facebook at 7 p.m. It’ll be El Collectivo Del Rescate Cultural’s 39th procession. And Calle24 will have both live and virtual activities throughout the day, practicing social distancing from viewing community altars down 24th to watching performances from, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

All the community altars that will be on display by Calle 24 were curated by Marina Ayala have a general theme. But each artist considered what specific message they wanted to touch on, each having their own COVID-19 awareness message.

For example, artist Linette Morales’ altar is dedicated to Essential Workers. Morales’ message is to “support practices that prevent spread of the virus and protects the rights of essential workers.”

With 10 altars in total, they will be visible from the storefronts until 10 p.m. today.

Aztec dancers will also be performing around from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will offer ceremonial blessings to all who would like to receive some.

Considering how COVID-19 has impacted the Latinx community—many considered essential workers and having to be out on the frontlines—it’s no wonder that the central theme this year is related to those affected by the epidemic. Keeping everyone safe during this time is a priority.

Plastered on poles across the neighborhood are reminders to celebrate safely, keeping six feet apart and wearing your cubrebocas, masks, at all times.

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So far, COVID-19 has claimed more than 230,000 lives in the United States. And so much of the loss that could have easily been prevented. This is why community solidarity is so important, especially during times like these, with the election so close and how it could drastically change our future.

But Día de los Muertos isn’t about the future, it is about our past and our present colliding as we honor and love and celebrate those who can no longer be with us moving forward. It is a collective celebration that not even a virus could keep us apart from.

The Mission District community prepares for Día de los Muertos on 24th Street, Nov. 1, 2020. Photo: Jon Jacobo

This weekend and today, if one were to walk out into the streets of the Mission, one could see altars and colorful papel picados strung out, in preparation and celebration. This was Ss that people could walk and still participate, even if there’s no procession this year, with no altars by the park.

For years, there has existed an undercurrent of social justice for Día de los Muertos in the Mission. Last year, it was the remembrances of the children lost from crossing the border and being captured and separated by ICE, and this year, while sadly that is still ongoing, it’s also the housing struggles, economic inequality and being on the frontlines of the pandemic.

With the strength of our dead loved ones, on the day we believe to have the closest connections to them, we can persevere. Si se puede. And with a community that wants to keep us safe, we can thrive. So that next year, no matter what barriers there are, we’ll be able to celebrate, juntos.