Skip to contents
Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Pilsen’s Muertos De La Risa Procession Keeps Traditions Alive While Honoring The Dead

PHOTOS: The longstanding Día de los Muertos celebration, the first held in person since 2019, drew hundreds to Dvorak Park.

The 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

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.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Mitzi Almaraz of SGA Youth and Family Services paints a young girl’s face during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.

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.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Nahui Ollin Aztec Dance group performs during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.

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.

Check out more photos from the evening’s event:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Mateo Weber, 4, dances during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Angelique, Alisa and Phoenix pose for a portrait during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A mariachi band performs during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Roberto “Capitan” Ferreyra drums during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ladies in costumes arrive during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Lifelong Pilsen resident Rose Delgado has her face painted during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Pilsen resident Julia Moria, 91, looks on as the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession passes her home in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Pilsen resident Julia Moria’s, 91, ofrenda is admired during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Eva Aguilar is blessed by Maria Elena Ramirez during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Nahui Ollin Aztec Dance group performs during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Lucas and Teddy walk with their owners during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Alicia Badillo is blessed by Maria Elena Ramirez during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Neighbors watch the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ricardo and Darlena Hernandez look on as the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession passes by on 18th Street in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Eric Garcia Arista performs during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Maria Elena Ramirez blesses the space during the 43rd annual Muertos de la Risa procession in Pilsen on Nov. 2, 2022.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: