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Claudia Camacho-Torres and her family visit her deceased father, Alfredo Camacho, at Evergreen Cemetery to celebrate the life he led. Photos by Art Torres.

This Nov. 2 Boyle Heights resident Claudia Camacho-Torres and her family will share memories of their deceased loved ones over tamales, pan dulce and champurrado at Evergreen Cemetery.

It’s a tradition Camacho-Torres remembers since she was only a few years old back in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“We used to go to the celebration, take a pot of food and pay our respects,” says Camacho-Torres. “At people’s homes, we would pray the rosary at the altar.”

After moving to Boyle Heights at 7 years old, Camacho-Torres says her family would continue honoring the deceased on El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a religious ceremony, an altar, or ofrenda, and a visit to the cemetery.

When her father, Alfredo Camacho, passed away two years ago after a sudden heart attack, her family was devastated. But Camacho-Torres says the Day of the Dead traditions have served as “a way of healing.”

“The day of the dead is a celebration of the lives of the dead”¦ everything they accomplished while they were alive and the memories we shared with them,” says Camacho-Torres. “The more you talk about [those who have passed] is like a therapy and that’s a way to be with them spiritually and to bring back the memories you shared with them.”

At home, Camacho’s family has set up an altar with candles, pictures, flowers, the cross that was in her father’s coffin and his favorite food, including pan dulce and tamales.

This Sunday, Camacho-Torres and about 20 members of her family will spend hours at her father’s gravesite for a potluck picnic and an emotional but cathartic day.

And just like she learned to celebrate the lives of those who have passed from a very young age, Camacho says her children, now in their early twenties, have also grown up partaking in the annual tradition.

“They know that this is a special day and they understand why and who we are celebrating,” says Camacho-Torres. “That’s very important to me.”

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