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.”