The Coast News Group
Above: A woman adorned with ornate makeup and flowers stands in front of an altar in the trunk of a car. Below: Some guests had their faces painted during the event. Photos by Angela McLaughlin

Thousands attend O’side’s Dia de los Muertos

OCEANSIDE — Often said to be one of the largest gatherings in Southern California, the 17th annual Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, was hosted by Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside on Oct. 29.

This year’s event brought out a large crowd — around 20,000 people, according to David Mears of Legendary Event Management, which produced the festival for the second year in a row.

Dia de los Muertos, dating back more than 3,000 years, is a Mesoamerican holiday that celebrates the lives of loved ones who have passed — a celebration of remembrance and a time to come to terms with one’s own mortality and the cycle of life and death. It is traditionally observed on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.

The free event was full of vibrant visuals for attendees. The celebration was packed with people dressed in elaborate makeup and clothing, vibrant marigolds, ornate altars and more.

The Por Siempre Car Club took part for the seventh year with a show that featured a number of decorated vehicles, incorporating altars in the trunks and around the cars. Live entertainment included music, ballet folklorico groups, street entertainers, and arts and crafts. A chalk cemetery gave guests the chance to create their own ofrendas — or alters — complete with candles, flowers and chalk. 

“This was our biggest and best event — we saw great response from the community,” Mears said.

Stepping inside the Mission, founded in 1798, attendees toured areas of the historic building and its grounds.

“The mission really brings a unique experience that you don’t get at any other venue,” Mears added.

Adults and children alike partook in many of the activities, such as “sugar skull” face-painting, a tradition many look forward to each year.

“This is probably the best cultural Day of the Dead experience that San Diego has to offer,” said Mears. “We try to keep this a very rich, respectful cultural event.”