In honor of our 25th Anniversary, and to mark the tumult of the year 2020, we are guided this year by the theme of Lagrimas y Flores, (Tears and Flowers). Tears like flowers play an important role in many occasions of our lives, from births to funerals they help us express our feelings toward people we care about.  We are welcomed into this world with flowers and tears of joy and we depart this world with flowers and tears of sadness. This theme captures the duality we are experiencing in the current confluence of crises impacting our communities. 2020 has been a year of sickness, fear, suffering and despotism. But these dark moments have at times given way to movements of resilience, solidarity, justice, and hope. 

For over 25 years, the Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival has invited thousands of people to celebrate the duality between life and death,   by welcoming everyone to celebrate life while remembering and honoring late loved ones. The Dia de los Muertos is a holiday observed since ancestral times by indigenous communities in Mexico.  In the indigenous world-view of Mesoamerican cultures, life and death were perceived not as opposites but as two complementary elements that formed a complete cycle.  Death as one stage in an eternal cycle of life, death, and regeneration. 

Fruitvale itself is marked by duality. A neighborhood beset by tragedy, but home to  resilient and vibrant communities filled with art, mom and pop businesses, and families with hope for a brighter future for their children.  

From Favianna Rodriguez, the Poster Artist for 2020:

This art piece uplifts the important role that mourning plays in our lives. In 2020, we face four major threats to our shared existence: a global pandemic; violence directed at people of color, especially Black people; environmental devastation; and an economic crisis. In this time of deep loss, there can also be deep transformation. This art piece pays homage to the people who have died because of COVID-19, as well as victims of police violence whose stories we have uncovered in 2020. I was honored to do the artwork for Fruitvale’s annual celebration because this is the neighborhood in which I grew up. 

Fruitvale has an extremely high rate of COVID and that’s largely because of the many Latinx frontline workers who are doing essential jobs. Similarly, in the state of California, Latinos are the demographic that is most dying of the virus. The Day of the Dead tradition offers us a moment to honor and celebrate our dead. In 2020, we are seeing old systems and narratives crumble and it’s precisely in moments like these that cultural traditions help people weather the storm. Day of the Dead has played a particularly transformative role in my own life and has given me tools to connect with my ancestors.