Portlanders with roots in Mexico, Latin America prepare for Dia - KPTV - FOX 12

Portlanders with roots in Mexico, Latin America prepare for Dia de los Muertos

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With the Halloween candy safely secured, a different sort of seasonal celebration captures the hearts and minds of Portlanders who trace their families' roots to Mexico.

Dia de los Muertos is an important and culturally rich tradition that traces back to the ancient Aztecs, who celebrated and paid tribute to loved ones who had passed away.

At Portland State University's La Casa Latina Center, students prepared for the annual celebration by making arts and crafts to be used in the school's Dia de los Muertos tribute.

"We honor our past relatives, we honor the dead. In a way we celebrate death and life as well," said Naela Cabrera, a PSU Senior.

Dia de los Muertos is a rare opportunity for Cabrera and others whose families originally came from Mexico to express their culture, and the tradition has become attractive to Latinos from other countries, as well.

"It ended up being something that I really connected with," said Roy Arauz, who grew up in Costa Rica. "I don't have a lot of rituals in my life, and this one resonated with me."

Arauz directed the Milagro Theater's production of "Exodo," a play that addresses how you carry those you leave behind. At the Milagro, Arauz said he has found a reassuring oasis of Latino culture, at a time that it's not always easy to be Latino.

"With everything that's happening government wise, people don't feel safe.  A lot of people don't feel safe. A lot of people don't feel safe coming here," said Arauz.

Luz Elena Mendoza, a local Latina artist and musician is a first generation Mexican-American who started her own Dia de los Muertos celebration featuring other Latino performers seven years ago, at a time in her life when she felt isolated from her culture.

Now, Mendoza tries to share the experience and meaning of the celebration with as many other Portlanders as possible, hoping to bridge the cultural divide she used to feel.

"If people want to learn, we're going to try to do our best to teach," said Mendoza. " Because at the end of the day, the celebration is to remember our ancestors and remember where we come from."

There are Dia de los Muertos displays set up at the Milagro Theater, the Portland Mercado, and other venues around Portland.

Mendoza will be performing in a Dia de los Muertos celebration at Holocene on November 2.

A procession will walk from Sunnyside Elementary to the venue at 7 p.m.

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