A Day of the Dead altar in the Dance Palace with the first of many photos in remembrance of ancestors and friends who have passed away.

Story and photos by Lynn Axelrod

West Marin residents Friday celebrated the Day of the Dead with a show of Latino photography at Gallery Route One and with an altar and food at the Dance Palace.

Alex Porrata of Inverness has her hands full getting daughter Lu and son Ez to pose during the Dance Palace celebration.

By Mexican custom, on El Dia de los Muertos, the thin curtain between the living and the dead is joyously parted. The spirits of Mexican ancestors are expected to return to their living families. This reunion of the departed with their relatives and friends is celebrated with flowers, candlelight vigils, and lovingly prepared foods and sweets.

Day of the Dead is celebrated in different ways throughout Mexico.

In some regions, the first night, Nov. 1, is set aside to honor deceased children and infants, or angelitos, while commemorations for deceased adults are held the night of Nov. 2.

Several photos at Gallery Route One show Maria P. Niggle cheerfully cooking. Here she joins the parade from the gallery to the Dance Palace.

In homes, an ofrenda, or altar, is set up and decorated with candles, papier-mache flowers, sugar skulls, and photographs of the deceased. Their favorite foods are prepared to welcome and sustain them on their journey.

In cemeteries, gravesites are cleaned and freshened as flowers are brought to decorate the graves and tombstones. More food is brought and incense and candles are burned to help the dead find their way.

In West Marin, the ongoing Latino Photography Project show at Gallery Route One, Raices y Sabores: Roots & Flavors, celebrates the bounty of family, friendship, and El Dia de los Muertos.

Maria Herrera and Sara Reynoso, 7 months, at the Gallery Route One show.

Brilliantly colorful photomontages at the gallery show coastal residents preparing traditional recipes that families have passed down for generations. Other photos show gatherings of friends and neighbors, both Latino and non-Latino.

Brief biographies highlight the ancestral ties to Mexico and the United States of people in the photos, as well as the photographers.

A parade heads out from the gallery to festivities at the Dance Palace.

After a reception at the gallery last Friday, an El Dia de los Muertos parade wound its way through downtown Point Reyes Station to the Dance Palace, where the hall was decorated with a colorful altar.

The room was festooned with skeletons, flowers, and special foods. The annual custom of reuniting families and friends, living and dead, was symbolically celebrated once again.

Unlike Halloween, the Day of the Dead is intended not to be scary but to celebrate reunion. This display is at the entrance to the Dance Palace’s hall.