Dia de los Muertos Altar Tour in Santa Ana, Anaheim Honors the Dead in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Volunteers from Latino Health Access pose with, "La Catrina," a symbolic character used during Dia de los Muertos.

Santa Ana and Anaheim have the highest percentage of Coronavirus infections and fatalities. Latino Health Access, a non-profit in Santa Ana, made sure to honor the lost lives this weekend and not letting them become just another statistic in Orange County. 

Julie Leopo

An enterprising and award-winning photojournalist in Orange County and beyond. Leopo, as Voice of OC’s Director of Photography, has captured a wide array of photographs visually documenting the news and soul of Orange County local government and community. Her work has also appeared in Vice, KCET, Ed Source, The California Endowment and OC Weekly.

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Volunteers and altar designer, Luis Herrera -Chalchiu, spent many days and nights to build a mobile altar that would eventually visit the most vulnerable communities in Santa Ana and Anaheim. 

The mobile altar, which is set to tour today, Halloween day and tomorrow on Dia de los Muertos, is attracting residents who wanted to share their own stories of death, resilience, and hope. 

Herrera described the altar, “as a  living memory to those whose lives have been lost. The words that are etched across the altar, “A Los Que Se Llevó el Covid” (those who were taken by Covid)  is a reminder that Coronavirus has taken from these communities, but also a reminder that no one is forgotten and their memory lives on.”

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A young girl runs in her halloween costume through a sidewalk in Anaheim where the mobile altar is stationed at its 2nd stop of the day.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

“Those that Covid took,” written in Spanish.

Volunteers glue down all the offerings and decorations to the mobile altar. The altar was built in the underground parking garage of Latino Health Access.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Reyna Arter, a Latino Health Access volunteer, writes notes to her three deceased family members who passed Mexico. Her family members passed during Coronvirus times, however, with Coronavirus prevailing worldwide she didn’t travel to bury her relatives. She carries tears in her eyes, as this was her moment of remembrance.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A volunteer takes a break during the building of the mobile altar in the parking garage of Latino Health Access on Oct. 29. The paper flowers were hand-made by 10 women in a span of two days.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Luis Herrera -Chalchiu, the designer of the mobile altar, helps load the altar onto a flatbed at 8 p.m. on Oct.20, the night before the celebration. This is the 17th year Luis designs a Dia de los Muertos Altar.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

(Middle) Leticia Obispo, 50, shows a young boy she babysits “La Catrina.” Leticia, who is a nanny to four different children has lost three family members to Coronavirus in Chicago. They were all Latinos. “This altar is so pretty but it’s also so sad, I worry for myself sometimes,” says Leticia.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

(Right to left) Alea, Guadalupe, and Janelle write their deceased grandfathers name on a tag that will be attached to the mobile altar. They lost their grandfather on July 18, 2020. “I am so sad, and this is stressful. I miss my grandpa, but I see the mobile altar and makes me feel a little better,” says a young Janelle.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The mobile altar on the Anaheim route on Oct. 31. The mobile event is a two day celebration, on Nov. 1, it will make its rounds through Santa Ana neighborhoods.