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Concordia Cemetery Helps Keep the Dead Alive

The Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society, commonly called Ghosts 915, and the Concordia Heritage Association will be sponsoring the annual Día de los Muertos Festival from 2-8 p.m. on Nov. 1 at El Paso’s
Concordia Cemetery.

“We have vendors, dancers, food trucks, a singer and more. This is our first year doing entertainment so it should be a big blast,” Ghosts 915 secretary Collette Maes said.

The festival, held to raise money for the restoration and preservation of the cemetery, has become a traditional event held each Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Ghosts 915 expects more than 1,000 people to attend this year’s festival, a significant increase from last year’s 150 attendees. As stated on the Ghosts 915 website, the festival “explores the tradition of the Latin holiday with marigolds, costume and song for our departed loved ones.”

“Many important people have been buried (at Concordia), including veterans from all walks of life. Everyone there has a story and we just want to talk about them. (Día de los Muertos is) a celebration of those who have moved on,” Maes said. “We try to figure out what’s out there and I’ve come to not fear death because, from what I’ve experienced, it isn’t necessarily the end. We want to celebrate the people’s lives and keep the
memories alive.”

Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that originates from Aztec beliefs. The Aztecs, who believed in an afterlife, believed that death should be celebrated, rather than mourned. A month would be devoted to honoring the dead and was named for the Aztec Goddess of the Underworld, Mictecacihuatl, in what was called the Mictecacihuatl festival. When Mexico was conquered by the Spanish, the Aztec festival merged with the Spaniards’ Catholic beliefs, resulting in the present-day Día de los Muertos.

“For Día de los Muertos, we would leave cempazuchitl flowers and pan de muertos (bread of the dead) for those who we’re honoring,” senior criminal justice major Karen Horta said. “We also have calaveras, which could mean sugar skulls or making fun of the dead; people take it seriously, but it’s a satirical thing. I’d like to go (to the festival.)”

Dia De Los Muertos retains its purpose of honoring the dead each year, for general and more personal reasons. The two-day holiday celebrated every November 1 and 2 has a very deep meaning to many who remember their diseased loved ones most during the holiday.

“I didn’t really know my uncle, so every time I celebrate that day, it helps me understand who he was when he was alive. For my grandparents, this helped me remember all those good times we had together,” senior, electrical engineering major Eduardo Ramirez said.

“(Dia De Los Muertos is) a good way to remember the passing of your loved ones, it helps you bring back all the good memories that you shared with them.”

The Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society is a non-profit organization that investigates paranormal occurarences in private and public places throughout El Paso. They are best known for the ghost tours held by the organization to raise money.

“The money that runs our office comes from the history and ghost tours that we do. We are a non-profit organizations and we’re considered a charity. We’ve partnered with Concordia and the money we get from that is donated back to the cemetery,” said Bonnie Juarez, UTEP alumnus, Ghosts 915 vice president, treasurer, investigator and tour guide. “We do fund-raising tours for other non-profit organizations at those locations and give them the money.”

Ghosts 915 will be hosting many other events aside from the Día de los Muertos festival throughout the end of October and early November.  A ghost tour of Hanks High School will take place to raise money for the school’s wrestling team on Oct. 29, the Devil’s Night tour of Concordia cemetery will be on Oct. 30, a tour of the Old County Jail of San Elizario on Oct. 31, and a sold out, adult-only tour of El Paso’s former brothels on Oct. 24.

Tickets for the festival are $5 for adults 17 or older, $1 for children and students and $2 for senior citizens and military personnel and dependents. For more information, call 915-581-7920.

Joseph Esposito may be reached at [email protected].

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    Heather ShadeOct 30, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    We cannot wait for this Saturday’s festival! One correction to the article though- last year we had over 600 attendees, not 150 😉

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Concordia Cemetery Helps Keep the Dead Alive