Día de los Muertos celebration in San Diego County honors COVID victims

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SAN DIEGO — Nearly 100 pictures and more than 4,200 stories tell a difficult story in San Diego County.

County officials on Tuesday night invited members of the community to honor the lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic with a COVID-19 Altar de Muertos.

In the sea of loved ones placed on the altar was Blanca Velazquez’s parents. They both died from COVID-19 in February.

“I still needed my mom and I still needed my dad,” Velazquez said. “I wasn’t ready.”

Her mom died first then her dad just a few hours later. 

“They were one soul, they couldn’t live without each other and we don’t know how my dad knew our mom was gone but he knew,” she said. 

Altar de Muertos, which consists of decorations and memorabilia to celebrate loved ones who have died, is created for the holiday of Día de los Muertos. The tradition originated in Mexico.

Velazquez said going to the altar “actually helped us a lot,” and particularly her sister who’s been having a difficult time with the loss.

“She made an altar in our house,” she said, “so our altar is really nice. Not like this, but it’s really nice and it helped her with her mourning a lot and I think things like this – it helps people who are mourning because it means they’re not forgotten.”

Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Supervisor Nora Vargas along with community members set up a Día de los Muertos altar Monday morning at the County Administration Center.

“Our hearts go out to those of you whose families were impacted, more than 4,000 San Diegans who lost their life from COVID-19,” Fletcher said.

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