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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Pilsen Woman’s Day Of The Dead Altar Will Honor Neighbors Who Have Died

Isabel Hernandez wants people to submit photos of Pilsen residents who have died for an ofrenda in the garden at her home. She's accepting photos until Sept. 16.

Over 10 days in 2020, Isabel Hernandez transformed her garden into a giant altar ahead of el Día de los Muertos.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — A Pilsen neighbor known for her stunning garden and holiday displays plans to pay tribute to local residents who have died with an ofrenda, or altar, for el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

For this year’s ofrenda, Isabel Hernandez is asking people to submit photos of Pilsen residents. They will be included in a display dedicated to loved ones who have died.

“This is a tribute to Pilsen residents who have lost their lives,” Hernandez said. “This is not my altar; this is like a neighborhood altar.”

Hernandez is collecting photo submissions by Sept. 16. Neighbors can get more information online.

Día de los Muertos is a tradition celebrated Oct. 31-Nov. 2 across Mexico and the United States to remember loved ones who have died. The days coincide with the Catholic holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, but the holiday was born from ancient Aztec traditions.

For this year’s display, Hernandez hopes to create a pyramid-style altar with seven levels to display photos in the garden at her home on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis.

RELATED: Pilsen Resident’s Gorgeous Garden Transforms Into Giant Altar For Día De Los Muertos

Last year, Hernandez created a display for family and friends who have died. 

She transformed her garden into an elaborate display with an 11-foot ofrenda in hopes she could inspire younger generations to keep Mexican traditions alive as the neighborhood changes.

“A lot of people came to see the altar and told me it meant a lot to them,” Hernandez said.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Herandez’s altar in 2020 included towers over 11 feet and black and white photos of her father, grandparents, aunts uncles, pets as well as friends and neighbors.

El Día de los Muertos is a tradition observed in various ways. Some set up traditional ofrendas with candles, photos and mementos of loved ones, while others gather at a loved one’s grave to decorate their grave or monument. 

RELATED: Pilsen Resident’s Gorgeous Garden Is 30 Years In The Making, Thrives On Water And Love

This year, Hernandez hopes to feature up to 200 photos in her ofrenda.

“I want this year’s altar to be a tribute to the community … so when they come over, they will know that their loved ones are there. It’s a community altar,” Hernandez said. 

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s altar in 2020 included towers more than 11 feet tall and black-and-white photos of her father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, pets, friends and neighbors.

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