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."