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Sun09272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

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.

Published in Local Fun

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a holiday that originated in Mexico and is now celebrated all around the world—especially in many Southwestern U.S. cities. The focus on coming together to pay tribute to the dead and remember loved ones has made the holiday appealing to many artists and musicians—and on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1 and 2, a large celebration is coming to the valley, in the form of the Dia de los Muertos festival, to be held at in Rancho Las Flores Park in Coachella.

The festival will feature live music, art installations, food vendors and traditional Day of the Dead celebrations. Rodri Entertainment Group CEO Rodri Rodriguez told the story of how this festival came together.

“About 17 years ago, I did a Day of the Dead event at the Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve always had a connection with Dia de los Muertos. I’m Latina, but I’m Cuban, and I grew up in Los Angeles.

“There’s a relationship with life and death. I lost my mom 12 years ago; my dad died two years ago, and my brother died a few months ago. I had been looking for a place, and I saw a place in L.A.—and the vibe wasn’t there. David Garcia, (the city manager of) the city of Coachella, called me and wanted to talk to me about doing something. I came in and pitched it to them.”

It turned out the city and Rodriguez’s idea for a celebration made for a nice fit.

“I did some research on Coachella and the Cahuilla Indians, who have been here for 3,000 years. (The area is) desert, mystical, and it just seemed perfect. Sure enough, I came out here and visited the property. They showed me different lots I could have, and I liked Rancho Las Flores. I like to say that I’m in bed with the city, but that I own the bed and the sheets, and I like 1,000-thread sheets.”

As the founder of the highly successful Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl for the past 25 years, Rodriguez knows her way around festival-planning. But what makes this Dia de los Muertos festival unique?

“It’s spiritually grounded,” Rodriguez said. “We came up with having entertainment and great food, and the visual arts aspect of it had to be tremendous. When we started to select talent, I wanted to make sure it was very traditional music for this first year. We have Norteño music, banda music and mariachi, of course. We have 40 visual artists who are working on exhibits that are unique and original to our event.”

When guests enter the festival grounds, they will be greeted by a group of 8-feet-high La Calavera Catrina figures. These satirical symbols of skeletal women in fancy clothing have become symbols of death in Mexico. There will also be an altar.

“We are creating the world’s largest Day of the Dead skeleton, which will be 40 feet long and 16 feet wide, and it’s going to be in a coffin,” Rodriguez said.

Guests will have the option to have their faces painted (for no extra charge). An altar will pay tribute to those who have passed away due to HIV/AIDS, and live art exhibit will be created in 3-D blacklight paint. There will be a house of offerings, and an altar paying tribute to entertainers who have passed away.

Rodriguez feels the artwork may be the most special element of the event.

“If you could see the art right now, you’d realize that you can’t miss this,” Rodriguez said. “We have 40 artists who have been working over the past four weeks. They’re so devoted and so motivated. They have a connection to the Latino world. It’s a reflection of community.”

Rodriguez joked about what it takes to put on such a large festival.

“(You need) to be very healthy, physically and spiritually, because it will really kick your ass,” Rodriguez said. “… It’s a great space, but you have to bring in everything such as the generators, the portable toilets, the stage. Almost everything has to come from Los Angeles; it’s very much similar to what Coachella (the music festival) does. It’s not that it’s never been done before, but it’s just a challenge.”

Rodriguez hopes the event can become another annual festival in the Coachella Valley.

“We have a lot of people from places around the world and the country coming out,” she said. “We have fans in Dubai who are flying in and are staying for about four days. We’ve got the Texas contingency, and Latinos from Arizona bringing in a piece of art representing their state. That’s what we want to see going forward: Different states sending an art component representing the Latino communities.”

The Dia de Los Muertos Festival USA takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1 and 2, at Rancho Las Flores Park, 48350 Van Buren St., in Coachella. Tickets start at $20 for a one-day pass, or $36 for a two-day pass; VIP packages are also available. For tickets or more information, visit www.diadelosmuertosusa.com.

Below: Axayacatl Arturo Nevarez, aka the Black Light King, is one of the artists participating in the Dia de los Muertos festival.

Published in Local Fun

Dear Mexican: I was surprised on a trip to Mexico earlier this month that I only ever found the holiday referred to as “Dia de Muertos,” whereas in the States, I’ve only ever heard it referred to as “Dia de los Muertos.”

I’m really curious as to why there’s a difference north/south of the border. Do Chicanos include the “los” so that it better matches up with the English translation? Do Mexicans use the phrase so often that the “los” has just fallen by the wayside? Is “los muertos” actually more (historically?) correct grammatically? In Spanish, do you actually NEED the “los,” or does the word “muertos” effectively include the article?

I’ve asked friends, but no one seems to know the reason for the difference; knowing your love of etymology and history, I was hoping you could give a definitive answer. Sorry for the long letter!

La Catrina

Dear Gabacha: Now let’s not put any blame on those mongrelizing Chicanos, one of whom (Michael Orozco) just helped the U.S. soccer squad save Mexico’s ass from World Cup elimination by scoring a goal in the Uncle Sam’s Army’s epic 3-2 triumph over Panama.

Both “Día de los Muertos” and “Día de Muertos” have been used in Mexico since the 16th century, although I’m noticing Chicano yaktivists and their fresa cousins are preferring the latter, most likely because they feel too many gabachos now know about the holiday and therefore prefer to use something the gabachos won’t understand—kind of like how Mexicans began using gabacho once gringos started calling themselves gringos, you know?

Both are technically right: “Dia de Muertos” is the literal translation of All Souls’ Day, the Catholic holiday from which Mexico’s veneration of its faithful departed is partly derived. (Notice how it’s not called “All of the Souls Day,” even though that makes more sense.) On the other hand, the day before Día de los Muertos, All Saints’ Day, is almost universally known in Mexico as Día de Todos los Santos (which literally translates as “Day of All of the Saints”) instead of Día de Todos Santos.

Confused yet? Don’t be: The Mexican propensity for elision is as notorious as our love for agave-based spirits and confusing the hell out of gabachos.

The other day, I went to Taco Bell and hit the drive-through. At the window, I ordered something with jalapeños. When I spoke the sacred “jalapeño” word with my gawky gringo accent, the illegal Mexican at the cash register corrected my pronunciation by repeating the word slowly and condescendingly with his own accent—“hah-lah-pen-yo.” Kind of annoying. True, I only suspect he’s Mexican, and I suspect he’s illegal as well. But I find that his almost complete inability to speak English offers some kind of clue, wouldn’t you say?

I wonder: Is this dude so ignorant that he doesn’t understand people pronounce words differently depending on where they’re from? Or was he intentionally getting rude ’cause he just hates gabachos? Or was he kindly instructing me as to how words will be expected to be pronounced once the Reconquista fulfills its promise? I’ve seen the stats, and I have no illusions; if you Mexicans keep reproducing like bunnies, y’all will eventually rule the whole continent.

Home Fry

Dear Gabacho: Let’s just set aside por un poquito your preposterous assumption that the guy taking your order is undocumented—Taco Bell uses E-Verify to ensure only legal citizens and residents prepare its slop.

The guy took your order, right? Which means he knows English. If anything, the Mexican was being charitable—you’re obviously the last gabacho left who doesn’t know how to pronounce jalapeño correctly, which means you’re as clueless about Mexican affairs as Damien Cave, The New York Times’  Mexico correspondent whose stories seem like press releases penned by the PRI.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

Published in Ask a Mexican