Day of the Dead festival upsets cemetery visitors

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NATIONAL CITY, Calif. -- The La Vista Memorial Park and Mortuary was transformed Sunday for Day of the Dead  or "Dia de los Muertos" festivities.

To celebrate the Mexican holiday, the cemetery held an event to honor those buried at the park. The festival included a concert featuring popular Mexican singers, food trucks, vendors and $5 parking.

Sade Heredia, 14, said she and her family refused to pay the $5 parking fee, because they were there to visit her grandmother's grave and not take part in the festivities the park was offering that day. Heredia described her shock upon seeing the spectacle in a cemetery she had been visiting with her family for years.

One of her concerns was the festival setup, including tables and vendor tents staged on top of some of the graves. Heredia said flowers and fences on top of the burial sites were removed for the event. The family found it to be disrespectful.

The Montes family said they didn't like the way they were treated by the La Vista Memorial Park general manager, Luisa McCarthy. They said McCarthy approached them about paying the $5 parking fee. When they refused, saying they wanted no part in the festival and wanted to visit their grandmother's grave, McCarthy threatened to have their vehicle towed, they said.

The Montes family have a couple of family members buried at La Vista Memorial Park. They paid $6,000 for each burial site. They were shocked when McCarthy told them she paid for the land 10 years prior and could set up as many events on the property as she wished.

McCarthy told FOX 5 the Dia de Los Muertos celebration was a huge success, drawing thousands of people to the cemetery. They had to launch two shuttle services because so many people wanted to take part in festivities. The memorial park charged a $5 fee because the park simply could not accommodate the amount of vehicles, she said. The fee would also help pay for the celebration costs.

McCarthy also sent FOX 5 the following statement:

"La Vista Memorial Park strives to enhance its role in the community by sponsoring events and activities which bring recognition and awareness to our cemetery. This is a historic property and we invite visitors to stroll the grounds freely and take in our beautiful scenery and learn of our rich history and cultural events. We maintain the natural beauty of the grounds through various projects which include trimming and care on each grave site. Whether during the course of hosting a special event, or conducting our routine maintenance, our staff is consistently mindful of the souls who rest here and everything we do is undertaken with the highest level of respect and honor."

22 comments

  • Helen Vinck

    I was visiting yesterday my grandmother’s grave and noticed the tables and chairs on some of the graves. I thought that’s not good. Also noticed the food stations and all the decorations. I then said to my son who was with me it was a money thing and people were disrespecting the dead by setting up over there graves. Not good……

  • Laura sanchez-toledo

    Absolutely sickening. Anything for a buck.

    I’ll bet you $1000 pesos that they were drunk and fighting, too.

    Welcome to the new “diverse” USA. No thanks to that culture…

  • Tom f.

    Disgusting. The cemetery managers have no common sense.

    Maybe this is OK is Mexico and other 3rd world countries, but we are still civilized in the USA.

  • Valerie

    Wow Fox News way to be fully informed of what actually happened. If you had read the signs that were posted at the Cemetary on Sunday you would have known that the gates were not due to open until 12pm. The woman who is to embarrassed to give her face because she is I. The wrong for 1)entering the park before noon. 2) for having her minor child speak on her behalf. Yes there had been a $5 charge for parking but there were free shuttles offered from Plaza Bonita to the Free Community Event. La Vista Memorial does this every year for the last 7 years. I don’t know about you but I want to buried where it’s not sad and depressing. I want there to be a celebration of life. There has never been alcohol served because this is a family event. What there was, was a free community event where hundreds of people came to celebrate. There were several Grammy Winning performers, that got paid by someone other than the people in attendance. So you tell me how “they made a buck” or “peso” as stated above. Please to talk about things that you know. Fox News 5. It really is a shame that you don’t report the facts but rather the opinion of a person who broke rules.

    • JGBTRIPN

      How do you know what time they visited. It could have been after 12pm. When they visited. How can you also say it was free when they charged 5 dollars for parking. Maybe the mother didn’t want to be in front of a camera because she may have been shy. You need to get your facts together before you chastise Fox 5.

    • JGBTRIPN

      And when is visiting loved ones in a cemetary that you paid $12,000 for, considered breaking a rule? The point of the story was the disrespect given by th e GM and the appalling setting up over burial sites. You make me sick.

  • thechurchofchrismartin

    A cemetery is a place of repose for the departed. It is not a place to throw a Day of the Dead party. What happened here is totally tacky & disrespectful of the deceased. If I had loved ones buried here, I’d be mad too.

  • Yurmom

    I believe they city can has ordnance’s on issues like this. If they don’t like it pass a law to stop day of the dead!

  • Gloria

    A cemetery cannot be used for a festival and much less one showcasing the culture of a foreign country. Cemeteries are the resting place where we visit and pay respect to relatives, loved ones, and friends and we want to do it in a peaceful, quite, and respectful environment. Bad move from whoever thought of this show.

  • ADRIANA

    I” m a property owner also at La Vista, and I find this event “Very Enlightening”!!! Once we or our love ones have deceased, it is a time to celebrate their life!!! this event was great and $5.00 for parking is not unjustifiable. You had to option of parking outside the park and walking to your loved one’s gravesite. In addition, if you were there to see a family member…”YOU WERE NOT CHARGED”!! so I doubt that the GM or any staff, did not let anyone that stated “were here to see a loved one” pay. I understand that most people were mostly upset because the event happened to be on the actual “DIA DE MUERTO” or day of the dead & possibly had plans of being at the site. I GET IT, however, this event has been occurring for the last 7 years and you simply can’t make everyone happy. there was absolutely no Alcohol sales in the park, and regarding fights I personally didn’t see any. However, due to being a community event, there was also officers at the site. People don’t hate just because you don’t agree. it was a great “Celebration of Past Life” and all were there to honor their deceased loved ones. I’m also almost certain, that La Vista did not own any of the food Vendors or sales Vendors stalls ,therefore, did not make any money…. I for one am happy to be a US Citizen and have freedom of expression & speech in any form. Which by the by is having a “Celebration on Life” at a cemetery. I know I will be their next year.!!!!!

  • c.r.

    To take into consideration a tradition that’s been going on for hundreds of years should not be something new to anyone-especially for us Mexicans. The celebration is not considered disrespectful in any way shape or form. It is a day to celebrate the life of the dearly departed. Anyone who sees it any other way just lacks the perspective of a positive thinker. This event brings families, friends and the community together to celebrate our loved ones in the most festive way. The staff does its best to ensure that everyone is taken care of in every sense of the word. This free event is done ONCE a year and blood, sweat and tears makes it all possible for all who are in attendance to really feel our Mexican heritage. (Mexico is not a third world country, by the way.) I have attended this event every year accept for one and you can tell how much detail and emphasis is put into it. This is a free event and free shuttles were offered to anyone not wanting to pay the parking fee. The event is also alcohol free as it is a family event. One person complaining about this event will not damage the respect that La Vista Memorial, its owners and management receive because everybody knows how much they do for their community aside from this event. To complain about such a meaningful and cultural event is just petty.

    • c.r

      I am also a proud property owner of two plots and have family and friends buried here. I have always been treated with the best care by all of the staff , management and owners.

      • C.r

        There were no fights at all and there was police presence. The vendors were all independent entities. The entertainment was taken care of by the owners and no one was charged anything for it. Everyone was having an awesome time enjoying the singers and dancers presented on this day. Why do we have to be sad because our loved one are gone when we can celebrate their life and remember the good times!

  • Lisa

    I was there and really enjoyed the event. For one day a year it’s transformed into something that celebrates the dead in a fun way. I love different cultures views and ways of celebrating. I emigrated to the US from Ireland and would hate to see people slamming Saint Patrick’s day! Celebrating the dead at a cemetery is no harm in my opinion.

  • Carolyn

    I only hope people are celebrating life and and dancing on my grave when they remember me! It is just my earthbound remains there, I will be free and live in the hearts of all who remember. I was there and thought it was a wonderful tradition!

  • Pedro Anaya

    At a time when Dia De Los Muertos has become so over commercialized, just as much as Cinco De Mayo, La Vista Memorial has done it right! Throughout the last few weeks I have watch non-stop ads, restaurant promotions, and costumes shops promoting Dia De Los Muertos as one big Halloween themed party. No connection to the true meaning of this celebration, remembering those who have left us, that is the real significance of Dia De Los Muertos. There is no real understanding to the significance of the Catrinas, painted faces and sugar skulls. The altars built with marigolds, the meaning of pan de muerto, or the copal burning at the center of each altar. La Vista Memorial has provided a true service to the families of both those who have been laid to rest and San Diego County. They have provided the space for those who celebrate Dia De Los Muertos in the most traditional sense to honor and remember their love ones. For those who have only seen the Dia De Los Muertos in passing (no pun intended) La Vista provides an opportunity to learn about a tradition that many of us in the United States have celebrate for decades and still do so today.
    Throughout Mexico, and yes the U.S., family members descend on the final resting places of their loves to celebrate death and their love ones. For us death is not a solemn thing, but just the natural progression of life. Just as is the natural progression of the marigolds used in these celebration. For those who label this is simply party have no true understanding of what the significance of this day really is. However, more disheartening are the comments about being “civilized.” Just because it’s different than what you are willing to understand does not make it uncivilized. Also how we define “respect” does not have to be defined as solemn and dressed in black. It can be a true celebration where we share our loved ones favorite food, music and jokes. When you understand death as that natural cycle it lets you remember your loved ones in way that truly honors more than just the fact they have passed but the very essence of who they are. Simply getting together and remembering is really what Dia De Los Muertos is!
    I am proud to pass on these thousand year-old traditions to my two daughters as a way for them to remember their grandfather and honor those who came before them. Thank you La Vista Memorial for showing my girls that life and death are a true duality. Thank you La Vista for providing a space where families can celebrate their loved ones.
    The individual with the original complaint may be bothered, but honestly it just appears they are upset because their ego was bruised. I drove by the event site days before and saw postings for the event. This is not a new event, it happens annually. In fact I know friends who specifically have laid family members to rest because of this celebration and being able to be part of it. However, I honor their right to be upset and I would recommend being more proactive and working with family members of those laid to rest to provide some mitigation and solutions for next year. This is a non-story that has only been sensationalized by the media, good job FOX 5. The real story was how thousands continue to follow these traditions, regardless of the continued pressure to assimilate. Maybe you should amend your headline to be more factually…”Thousands honor family members during Day of the Dead.” That would be more accurate.
    There is no right or wrong way to celebrate or mourn the passing of a loved one. Everyone does it in their own way, when and how it’s comfortable for them. However, what we lack is the ability to accept those different than us. So in this comment thread it stated, “no thanks to that culture.” Well the only culture I am not interested in is that of ignorance demonstrated here, the culture of intolerance.
    La Vista Memorial you are serving your community in a positive way with a beautiful event. I was proud to be part of it and will continue to support it.

  • Valerie

    To the person with a lot of disdain and anger in the above comments…
    I was a vendor at the event, I was there when I heard the lady (who referenced in the video). Raise her voice at the General Manager Ms. McCarthy. In reference to your question how do I know it was before noon, we (vendors who were allowed to come in to set up) had been asked to move our vehicles off the property to allow the Fire Marshall to do his walk through inspection at 10am. So now that I established that… I heard the lady raise her voice and say “Make me move” and “Move me” in Spanish. As far as for the people who have said this was disrespectful and a money maker… Now from what I witnessed everything was done in with the utmost respect and in good taste. This event not only brought the community together but it also helped small businesses who are not owned nor are affiliated financially with La Vista. As far as Fox 5 interviewing a child as a credible witness is appalling and manipulative. You can not report a positive community event that thousands of people enjoyed without putting an aspect of drama in there I guess. Also where that tomb that they were visiting was located was no where near the festivities.
    Like I stated in my initial comment… Talk about something you know.

  • AM

    Appears that the Family in this i terview….was there to part-take in the festival. The park closes at 6pm and by the background its already dark indication of the time being after 6pm. Therefore, if in fact this family didn’t go there to participate but to pay respectsto their love one, they would have been long gone in a normal visiting day. Congrats Fox5 on making your news co pathetic and turning a wonderful community event into a negative event based on a child’s statement and the few that did not approve of it.

  • Jgbtripn

    I guess you people don’t really mean it when you use the words….

    “REST IN PEACE!”

    When a loved one dies. Smh!

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