By Madina Toure
The third annual Mexican Day of the Dead celebration at Corona Plaza featured a mixture of food, music and dancing as participants mourned the dead and victims of police brutality.
At least 80 residents came out to the event at the plaza on 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue. The Queens Museum, Corona residents and Immigrant Movement International organized the event.
Corona has a mixture of people from Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, each of which celebrates the holiday differently, Prerana Reddy, the museum’s director of public programs and community engagement, said.
“We were trying to find a way to create the tradition respecting that diversity of how people do it,” she said.
Day of the Dead, known as Día de los Muertos in Spanish, is particularly popular in central and southern Mexico. Observers of the holiday believe that heaven’s gates open at midnight Oct. 31 and that the spirits of deceased children can reunite with their families for 24 hours.
On Nov. 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities prepared for them.
The stage at the event featured an altar created in collaboration with Shellyne Rodriguez, a Harlem-based multidisciplinary artist.
The altar had the faces of some of the deceased such as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Osman Hernandez, a 26-year-old man shot in the head as he lay on the ground in Salinas, Calif., and deaths that have sparked the Black Lives Matter movement such as Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teen who was killed by a man claiming self-defense, and Ramarley Graham, a Bronx teen shot in front of his 6-year-old brother and grandmother.
There was also a small table in front of the stage that contained food such as bread and fruits.
Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz, one of the museum’s community organizers, has been working with the Immigrant Movement International. The theme of this year’s event was anti-black racism within the immigrant community and police brutality.
“We have been working for months to make this happen,” she said.
The event also featured a table highlighting a campaign asking for Rikers Island to be shut down, which included a drawing of Kalief Browder, 22, on a poster who committed suicide in June after having spent three years at Rikers without a trial or conviction.
Erika Hernandez, 40, of Sunnyside, who used to live in Jackson Heights, said the event is a good way to unite neighbors in the area and provides a fun activity for children.
She also noted that such events serve as a platform where immigrants can get information, as they do not always know what their rights are in the United States.
“I think it’s very good for this community,” Hernandez said.
Brooklyn resident Rachel Torres, 24, who is Mexican, said she appreciated the emphasis on social justice issues and having her cultural tradition highlighted.
“I think it’s great there’s organizations that come out and bring out something that’s part of our culture to a public space,” Torres said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour