Take a beloved Mexican tradition. Add a health-and-wellness component to it; throw in some great food and drink; and top it all off with some fantastic music. Finally, put it all in the middle of downtown Coachella—and you have Run With Los Muertos, one of the east valley’s most popular annual events.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 people will celebrate the event in Old Town Coachella this Saturday, Nov. 2. The evening kicks off with a procession and ceremony; the 5k race starts at 6 p.m. Registration for the 5k is $40, but the festival is free and open to all. Proceeds from the celebration benefit east valley-focused nonprofit Raices Cultura.
We recently spoke to Tizoc De Aztlan, one of the founders of Run With Los Muertos, which is celebrating its seventh year.
How did you come up with the idea to merge a Dia de Los Muertos celebration with a 5k run?
It was a combination. We had an interest in wanting to have a health and wellness event on the eastern side of the valley—but there are so many 5k runs and things like that. So we wanted to have something that wasn’t your typical 5k. We wanted something that was fun and encompassed more community than (an event just focused on) health and wellness. So we partnered with Raices Cultura, which had been celebrating Day of the Dead for, at that point, seven years. They celebrated it inside a church, and instead, we said, “Hey, bring this out onto the street, and let’s turn this into a block party.” From the first year, it took off. It’s obviously expanded in programming and in terms of a crowd size.
We’re really grateful for the community support. It’s been something that’s grown pretty organically. Every year, we have more and more organizations participate.
How do you decide who participates in the festival?
At the end of the day, it’s meant to celebrate what (Dia de los Muertos) is, right? So we want to make sure that any vendor or exhibitor is on the same wavelength as the event is—so everyone has to be in theme.
Can you tell me more about the entertainment?
We want performers who play well and that the crowd’s going to enjoy. We also always try to bring in a band from outside of the area, so folks get to see someone that they hadn’t seen before. We’ve done that with La Misa Negra; they’re a seven-piece band from Oakland, which does everything from cumbia to ska to a little bit of hip hop.
Ocho Ojos played at Coachella; they’re a local band with a really large following, so people are always really looking forward to where they’re playing next. It’s a mix. We have Eevaan Tre, who does more R&B (style music). We have a young rock band, Pescaterritory, who is doing the rounds; we always want to find space for emerging bands.
This is a community event. We want to have as many different people participate as possible, and have something for the older folks, and something for the younger folks. At the end of the day, it’s a good time for people to come out and enjoy the cultural aspect of what the event is. This is a tradition that goes back centuries, and we’ve kind of put a new spin on it. But at the end of the day, it’s the Day of the Dead. It’s a night for people to honor those who have passed.
What are your hopes for the future of the event? Where do you see Run With Los Muertos in one year, five years, 10 years?
We’re letting it grow organically. There isn’t a specific target that we have in mind.
We always want to keep it fresh. We want to add new elements. This year, we’ve added a food component of molés, so that there’s something for people to look forward to as far as food is concerned. We’ve actually added a car show to the run route—so folks will actually run to a car show!
Is there anything about the event you’d like to add?
The No. 1 thing that we have to relay to folks is: People get intimidated by hearing it’s a 5k, not realizing that many thousands of people go who don’t run, and are there to just take in the night and take in the procession and take in the arts and have some molé. We have Dead or Alive bar providing the beer and wine, and there’s great entertainment. It’s definitely something for everyone. The event itself is free. Some people will be running, but most people are just there to have a good time.
Run With Los Muertos begins at 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, in Old Town Coachella, 1515 Sixth St. 5k registration is $40, but admission to the festival is free. To register for the 5k, visit www.runwithlosmuertos.com; for more information, visit www.facebook.com/runwithlosmuertos.