PILSEN — In face paint and festive attire, hundreds flocked to Dvorak Park Wednesday evening to celebrate their late loved ones before taking to the streets in dance and sound.
Muertos de la Risa, one of the city’s longest-running Día de los Muertos events, honors the dead with musical performances and a procession through Pilsen. Wednesday night’s procession was the first to happen in-person since 2019 and the 43rd annual celebration.
During Día de los Muertos, a traditional Oct. 31-Nov. 2 Mexican holiday, people honor loved ones who have died by building an ofrenda, or altar, and top it with photos and mementos to invite back their spirits.
Mitzi Almaraz of SGA Youth and Family Services painted dozens of attendees’ faces before the parade stepped off. Her excitement to finally have the event in-person after two pandemic years was almost palpable.
“I think it brings everybody closer together because we finally get to celebrate something like in a big family,” Almaraz said. “All of us here are very united.”
At the front of Wednesday night’s procession was Roberto “Capitan” Ferreyra and the Aztec dance group Nahui Ollin. Ferryra came to Chicago from Mexico 30 years ago, bringing with him the ancient dance and a passion to carry it on in modern times.
“Dancing is a way to honor my ancestors. It’s a tradition that people from the past, they leave this tradition for the people for today,”
“We are like a … live museum,” Ferreyra said. “Our attire is from the past, but at the same time we are putting this tradition in our times.”
As the procession took over 18th Street, 4-year-old Mateo Weber found himself miming the moves and dancing with the leaders, despite his mother’s advice to hang back in the crowd.
“When you see the kids very enthusiastic[ally] dancing, I think my goal is almost done,” Ferreyra said.