SF Mission's Day of the Dead
SF Mission's Day of the Dead

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"It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears
is said to be seen in San Francisco.
It must be a delightful city and possess
all the attractions of the next world."

Oscar Wilde


The Mission's annual celebration of death in the cycle of life, death and rebirth returns to complete the cycle once again on November 2nd, with the ritual procession along 24th and 25th Streets and a climax ending with the glorious outdoor exhibit of altars in Garfield Park. Before and after, Mission visitors will find an exciting range of exhibits and other opportunities to get in rhythm with nature's fall season.

For 2010, the procession will begin at 7pm at 22nd & Bryant, At this time SFPD-Mission has called for a rerouting of the procession to not pass the Mission Cultural Center or Garfield Park . For the 5th year they can be expected to now allow access to Balmy alley. The Festival of Altars in Garfield Park, 26th & Harrison, at 8:30 PM is on after being saved from overwhelming City of San Francisco fees by Supervisor David Campos . Participants are encouraged to bring candles & mementos of loved ones to place on the altars. Organizers emphasize this is a NO ALCOHOL event.


Dia de Los Muertos in pre-Columbian America is at least as old as the vivid  3000 year old recorded art history of Mesoamerica. Its best know symbol, the skull head, represents rebirth as well as death. Life was but a dream or mask, and death was when one would meet the real world. Like its spring counterpart, Carnaval, attempts were made to repress it by the Catholic church authorities, but it was too deeply ingrained in the people. While Spaniards viewed death as the end of life, the natives believed the dead came back and visited.  You are connected to your ancestors and they to you.

Conscious understanding of the mystery of death cannot happen through word alone; in the Mexican tradition is an incredible palate of symbols and rituals. Underlying the growing popularity is the healthy wholeness found only when we go beyond absolute, either/or thinking to embrace the "dance of opposites," or life and death.

Communal expression, is widespread in Native America. It aims to re-create the sacred in the present moment. Communities regularly seek to be restored to their original fertility in cyclic ceremonies of renewal, and thus promote the continuance of life on earth.  Throughout the weeks surrounding November 2nd are innumerable altar exhibits and special displays which demonstrate and sell the pieces which mark Day of the Dead.

Calaveras, the animated skeletons which remind us that death is best approached as an inevitable greatest life journey are the most popular in both San Francisco and Mexico, either as small sculptures or as prints by the great Mexican artist Jose Posada. Yet the palate is large, with many that serve on personal ancestor altars like sugar skulls, marigolds, candlesticks, incense-burners and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

For the last millennium, images that represent the Black Madonna, like the Lady of Guadalupe or self-portraits of Frida Khalo, have been among the most numinous of archetypes, often being connected to miracles. The Black Madonna as the empowered feminine principle is harbinger of a new paradigm of inclusiveness, and her rise in the collective consciousness can be interpreted as foretold in the mythical end of the Aztec fifth age. We are living in the uncertain time of an Armageddon, where humanity must tame the patriarchal lust for power and control  or see it destroy the human race.

According to Aztec thinking,  life, so solid, so apparently real, was an illusion. Only by creating art, by imitating the Lord and Lady of the Close and the Near, could they aspire to immortality. Thus the idea that "art made things divine," and only the divine was true.

Today we yearn for this different, more metaphysical consciousness that appreciates the non-dual approach of peace with the four directions. To American Indians like the Aztecs, to be at peace within the community is to submit to a communal expression of conscience which functions as intelligence of the heart.

Day of the Dead is very much alive in our new millennium.




Generic sugar skull given and eaten for the Day of the Dead








Generic sugar skull given and eaten for the Day of the Dead








Generic sugar skull given and eaten for the Day of the Dead

The following locations offer exhibits and workshops:

Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Day of the Dead Exhibits at SOMArts.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes)
Mission Cultural Center.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Free "Death and Rebirth" celebration at Precita Eyes.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Workshops at Galeria de la Raza.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Workshops at Casa Bonampak.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Merchant Displays sponsored by Mission Merchants. missionmerchants.com
You can also find a listing of Day of the Dead and Halloween events at hauntedbay.com



As of 22OCT-2010:
The Religious Procession was told it must begin at 22nd & Bryant > and circle from 24th St to Mission to 22nd St.
This means the procession is currently not scheduled to pass the two major events scheduled that evening. The Mission Cultural Center's Dia de los Muertos Gala [2868 Mission Street @ 25th St and the Festival of the Altars in Garfield Park [between 25th & 26th and Harrison & Treat Sts

 Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Nov 2: Ritual Procession @ 7pm begins at 24th & Bryant and proceeds down Bryant to 25th, turning right, then right again on Mission to head towards 24th, passing the Mission Cultural Center on Mission, and then back on 24th past Precita Eyes, right on Harrison, and into Garfield Park (26th & Harrison) for outdoor altars at 8:30pm.
Blue_Diamond02F7.gif (991 bytes) Nov 2: Festival of Alters produced by Marigold Project @ Garfield Park, 6:30 to 10:30pm.


The San Francisco Day of the Dead Ritual Procession is a project of El Colectivo del Rescate Cultural (Rescue Culture Collective), with the support of the California Arts Council, in collaboration with Cell Space, The Mission Culltural Center for Latino Arts, Galería de la Raza, and the support of community and cultural workers. The procession director since 1989 has been Juan Pablo Gutierrez.

For information: Contact: Juan Pablo Gutierrez, the San Francisco Dia de los Muertos ritual Procession Director at 415-405-2050 or at juanpablodod at aol dot com

The Ceremony of the Five Directions is presided over by Francisco X. Alarcon & Starhawk



1st Invocation:
Direction: East
Element: Fire

2nd Invocation:
Direction: South
Element: Water

3rd Invocation:
Direction: West

4th Invocation:
Direction: North
Element: Earth

5th Invocation:
Element: Spirit 

2007 Poster

Oye Nike, which also maintains a Botanica storefront at on 22nd between Mission & Capp has become the most prominent group in the parade. Their Carnival contingent is also best known for representing Africa and the Arab world as well as the most spectacular representations of the syncretic orishas of the Afro-Caribbean who began in Mother Africa. Ruben Texidor is the founder and director.
DownloadHadley Louden & Friends one of the pioneers and backbones of the inimitable SF Day of Dead sound which has no peers. A well-known professional musician who usually cooks up something special of his own as a street offering to the dieties who care little for material wealth of the visibleworld. 
DownloadRed & White has appeared every year since 2001 and features original choreography, skits and new red and white costumes.
DownloadOakland Steelpan Arts is a youth arts group, surviving on the dedication of its leader, Liz Lamatia, and its alumni. Why are music & arts programs always the first to be cut when balancing school budgets? Many members of Dance Kaiso join this group. Missed 2008 & 2009
DownloadSons & Daughters of Orpheus Kkeepers of the mid-Balmy Alley Rebirth post-procession jam have tempered their samba rhythms into a frenzy all their own. Led by Bruce Silverman, they generally bring up the rear of the procession and have been at nearly all the Day of Dead processions since 1992
Carnaval.com recently journeyed to the
Land of Orpheus. Missed 2008 and 2009


More about magical realist poet
Francisco X. Alarcon
who has recently published children's books.


DSC01704.jpgStarhawk: the good witch and  longtime resident of the Mission produces for Reclaiming
Day of the Dead Books at amazon.com

Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center



Official Festival of Altars at Garfield Park event site.

Casa Bonampak
Latin American fair trade store specializes in Mexican art and promoting cultural traditions. The store at 1051 Valencia Street, San Francisco - (415) 642-4079 features sugar skull and altar demonstrations in the days leading up to Day of the Dead.

Rescue Culture Collective
Juan Pablo Guiterrez

SOMArts Cultural Center
Day of the Dead exhibits and events. 

*Art Gallery, Pan de Muerto workshops, Artist talks, and imported Day of the Dead Altar and gift items
Mia Gonzalez, 908 Valencia, SF, CA 94110 tel:415.642.3939

Mexican Musuem
Fort Mason Center, Building D, San Francisco, CA 94123
415.202.9700 ph
Mission Cultural Center
Rooms & Altars for the Dead during month of November, as well as numerous workshops during October.

Galeria de la Raza
*Art Gallery and Day of the Dead supplies and gift items
Carolina Ponce de Leon, 2857 24th St. SF, CA 94110
415.826.8009 ph

Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607
510.238.2200 ph



Parking in the Mission can be difficult on this evening because some of the streets will be blocked off for the Procession. We suggest that you take public transportation or bike/walk here if possible.

There's a BART station at 24th and Mission
You could also take the BART to 16th Street and walk down Misison or Valencia to 24th St.

The procesion starts at 24th & Bryant at 7:00pm.
Bryant is about 1/2 way between Mission Street and Potrero Avenue.

9 San Bruno
27 Bryant
12 Folsom
14 Mission
49 Van Ness/Mission
48 24th St

If you must drive, there is minimal street parking in the neighborhood but the SF General Hospital Parking garage usually always has space
at the 2500 24th Street garage. PACIFIC PARK MANAGEMENT, INC and might at the 21st & 16th St option.
 From the Peninsula, parking at a BART garage is hassle-free from Daly City to the Millbrae stations



About 2000 years ago the exiled Roman writer Ovid wrote Metamorphoses on the shores of the Black Sea. A collection of stories about gods in transformation. His stories about Orpheus who could charm the gods of death with his music  has inspired many generations of artists. [more at www.carnaval.com/orpheus ]
click your refresh button for new wisdom quote by Ovid
First thing every morning before you arise say out loud -- I believe -- three times

Last Update: 22OCT2010