Artist Andrea Luna adorned her altar with  "Amor Eterna," which depicts a calavera holding the favorite drink of deceased loved one. Tiffany Camhi/KQED
Artist Andrea Luna adorned her altar with "Amor Eterna," which depicts a calavera holding the favorite drink of deceased loved one. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

PHOTOS: Thousands Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oakland

PHOTOS: Thousands Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oakland

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, dates back nearly 3,000 years ago, to the Aztecs in Central America. The Mexican holiday, which honors and remembers the dead, was originally celebrated in the summer, but after a few hundred years and some mixing of Spanish Catholicism, it now takes place in the fall.

This year, the holiday falls on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

In the Bay Area, community Day of the Dead celebrations are becoming more popular including the annual Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oakland, which is put on by the Unity Council. Organizers say the outdoor festival regularly attracts more than 60,000 people to downtown Fruitvale. This year's festival -- held on Sunday, Oct. 29 -- was the 22nd and included traditional Aztec dancing, live music, more than 100 Latin American vendors and 30 altars designed by local artists.

A large part of Dia de los Muertos includes building altars, or ofrendas, to loved ones who have died. They’re filled with items that are thought to help guide spirits back home like attractive and fragrant yellow and orange marigolds. Copal and salvia incense is also often burned.

And of course, favorite foods of the dead, like avocados and apples, are laid out along with brightly colored sugar skulls, calaveras figurines, candles and photos of the deceased fill out the rest of traditional altars.

Lilia Olson entitled her altar "Memories."
Artist Lilia Olson entitled her altar "Memories." It is filled with photos, calaveras and other items important to her loved ones. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Artist Gonzalo Hildago included a reference to DACA -- or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- on his altar. It was an allusion to President Donald Trump's decision to end the program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to obtain legal status.
Artist Gonzalo Hildago included a reference to DACA -- or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- on his altar. It was an allusion to President Donald Trump's decision to end the program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to obtain legal status. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Artist Alicia Diaz included a tree of butterflies with the names of loved ones on her altar. Monarch butterflies are thought to help guide spirits home.
Artist Alicia Diaz included a tree of butterflies with the names of loved ones on her altar. Monarch butterflies are thought to help guide spirits home. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Aztec dancers helped open the 2017 festivities.
Aztec ritual dancers helped open the festival on 12th Street outside the Fruitvale BART station. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Whisper Torres, 17, and Leilani Holley, 13, came to the festival to perform as part of the dance group Lak’Ech.
Whisper Torres, 17, and Leilani Holley, 13, came to the festival to perform as part of the dance group In Lak’Ech. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Jennifer Hale and Lorenzo Ortiz had their faces painted as Dia de los Muertos skulls. They were among the many young people at the festival.
Jennifer Hale and Lorenzo Ortiz had their faces painted as calaveras skulls. They were among the many young people at the festival. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
This altar was created on the hood of a car. Altars are a way to honor the memory of loved ones.
This altar was created on the hood of a car. Altars are a way to honor the memory of loved ones. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
This is part of an altar by the Oakland Workers' Collective called "honrando la vida y muerte de los immigrantes."
This is part of an altar by the Oakland Workers' Collective called "Honrando la vida y muerte de los immigrantes." It means "honoring the life and death of immigrants." (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

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