Families celebrate Day of the Dead on Detroit riverfront

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Xhadan Velasquez tilted his head and grinned, showing off the faux bandages draped across his chest.

"I got two costumes," the 4-year-old boasted. "A mummy and Jack Skellington." He pointed to his torso. "This is the mummy."

His favorite of the two costumes? He didn't answer, instead turning to his mom and asking for a piece of pan de muerto — sometimes called "Day of the Dead bread."

Xhadan and his mother Cecilia Velasquez of Taylor were among the Metro Detroiters who braved Saturday's sprinkles to enjoy the first Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — celebration at Valade Park sponsored by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

"I'm from south Texas, and I'm used to huge Day of the Dead celebrations," Cecilia Velasquez said. "My son is the first one in the family to experience this culture up here in Detroit, so it's pretty cool."

Addison Mauck of Detroit puts a message in the Day of The Dead Altar jar, Saturday afternoon, October 30, 2021.

Maria Elena, a Riverfront Conservancy board member and former president of the Mexicantown Community Development Corp., said the event was "a chance for us to celebrate our culture — but everyone can come down and embrace it."

Saturday's event was an early celebration, with Día de los Muertos formally observed Monday and Tuesday.

"The first day is to remember the children, and on (Tuesday) Nov. 2 we remember the adults," Elena said of the holiday that's associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day

"There are so many people to remember," Elena said. "I'm thinking of a lot of friends and relatives — and also being grateful that my close relatives are safe and sound."

Dylan Key, right, poses as his mom, Nicole Key, both of Detroit, talks to a Detroit News reporter after Dylan bought a Mexican wrestler mask at Dia De Los Muertos, Saturday afternoon, October 30, 2021.

Nicole Key brought her four-year-old son Dylan Key to the riverfront Saturday.

"He's been wanting a Mexican wrestler's mask," she said. They procured the face covering from one of the vendors who'd set up shop in the park. A food truck offering Mexican fare was parked on Atwater Street outside the park.

Debbie Byrd of Taylor brought her 4-year-old son Jackson Byrd, who was dressed as a dinosaur, to Saturday's event."

"We came to check out the dancing and the food," she said. "I'm a little unfamiliar with this holiday, but I love coming downtown."

Gustavo Caballero and his son, Elian, 2, both of Ann Arbor, attend the event, Saturday afternoon, October 30, 2021.

Other scheduled events included children's storytelling; a dance performance by Ballet Folklórico Moyocoyani Izel; and live music by Adele Ruelas featuring Luna.

The Riverfront Conservancy's Day of the Dead altar is open for visitors at Valade Park from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. through Nov. 7.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN