A team of Latinx groups in Napa County turned this year’s Día de los Muertos into a homage to those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic – the nearly 1.2 million people lost worldwide, and the 16 to succumb to COVID-19 in the valley.
A 12-foot-long and 6-foot-high altar, draped in black and adorned with candles, skull figures and more than 3,000 Mexican marigolds, was displayed for six hours Sunday at the Oxbow Commons park on McKinstry Street in downtown Napa. Containing more than 300 petals per flower, the marigolds, known as cempasúchil, together include roughly one petal for each victim of the coronavirus on the planet, according to Juan Martinez, a member of the grassroots group Sembrando Semillas that organized the event.
The Día de los Muertos display also included flowers grouped into 16 urns, each representing a Napa County resident confirmed to have died as a result of COVID-19, Martinez said.
Observed on All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, Día de los Muertos is widely celebrated in Mexico and the western U.S. to remember links to loved ones who have died. Martinez, who works for Napa County’s Health and Human Services agency, said this year’s event also is meant to draw attention to the coronavirus’ toll on Latinx communities, including farmworkers.
Sembrando Semillas put together the Oxbow Commons observance in less than two weeks after Napa’s annual Día de los Muertos ceremony, at Harvest Middle School on Old Sonoma Road, was canceled by the Latino Heritage Committee of the Hispanic Network due to health concerns during the pandemic, said Debbie Alter-Starr, co-chair of the Latino Heritage Committee.