Santa Ana’s Annual Noche de Altares Honors the Dead, Unites the Community

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

Since 2002, El Centro Cultural de Mexico has been organizing Noche de Altares, or a Night of Altars, a community based Día de los Muertos celebration.

Santa Ana’s Noche de Altares (Night of Altars) is a one-day, community based celebration organized by El Centro Cultural de Mexico for Dia de los Muertos.

Organizers say the focus is on honoring the ancient traditions of the festival through art, culture, activism and love. Families, students, community organizations, activists, artists, and small businesses spend a day building an altar in memory of honoring loved ones, or to bring awareness to pressing social issues.

Throughout the years, patrons have come to celebrate their culture, or to learn about a culture they do not yet know about.  This annual holiday brings the community together in ways no other event does. Some people come from far off counties travel to Santa Ana to learn about this holiday through this unique experience and dialogue with the families that share their lives through these altars.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

Patricia Perez was born and raised in Orange County and has been attending Santa Ana’s Noche De Altaras her whole life. However, this is her immediate family’s first year participating in the event. There have been many recent deaths in her family and they knew it was up to them to carry on the tradition.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

A member of the Techpalehui Ticmaqixtizqueh to Tahtol Nahuatl group perform free cleanses to a member of the community.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

The Garcia family altar features multiple family members centered around their grandparents and includes sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins. This is their 15th year participating in Santa Ana’s Noche de Altares.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

“Each life here has it’s own story,” said Genevieve Huizar with ‘Our Realities,’ an organization that focuses on young lives killed by police and the aftermath of family trauma. This is the group’s third year at Santa Ana’s Noche de Altaras.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

An altar is dedicated to the people who have died in detention centers across the border.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

La Catrina is the modern-day icon of Día de los Muertos created by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

La Catrina lights the Garcia family’s candle in front of their altar.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

Families work together to light the rest of their alter after La Catrina shares her flame.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

Once La Catrina lights a candle after visiting an altar, families are able to light the rest of their candles using the flame.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

Marigolds, sometimes called “the flower of the dead” are said to help guide spirits to the altars through the bright color and scent of the flowers.

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The Santa Ana Unified School District’s altar at Noche de Altares.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

A family built an altar to raise awareness for incurable diseases at Noche de Altares.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

The Tito family celebrates their third year participating in Santa Ana’s annual Noche de Altares. Their abuelito Tito started the tradition before he passed. Tito started the family’s tradition of participating in Noche de Altares three years ago. He was a devoted Catholic and carpenter, who also enjoyed long distance cycling.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

A youth group called Resilience OC, based in Santa Ana, chose to honor victims of school shootings this year. The students contributed to the research of each victim. This is their fourth year participating in Noche de Altares.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

A family member explains the annual Noche de Altares tradition to patrons at Santa Ana’s annual Noche de Altares.

JENNY LYNN, Voice of OC

A cross made of candles and marigolds honors the dead.

Jenny Lynn is a freelance contributing photographer to Voice of OC.