SAN DIEGO — Community members in Hillcrest are doing everything they can to protect a growing Día del los Muertos ofrenda after it was destroyed in a vandalism incident last year.

The altar is located under the Hillcrest Pride Flag at the intersection of University Avenue and Normal Street.

Organizer Rick Cervantes introduced the display to the neighborhood last October as a way for community members to remember and celebrate loved ones who have died by placing flowers, candles, pictures and personal items of those they wish to honor.

“This started because my brother was murdered seven years ago,” said Cervantes. “Last year was the first time I brought it out to the community to celebrate the intersection of my Mexican culture (and) my gay identity.”

However, someone vandalized the display overnight during its inaugural year, smashing pictures and stealing blankets they placed on the display.

“It was very devastating to me,” Cervantes said. “But we are resilient, as cliché as it sounds. We rebuilt the altar.”

This year, he is working to stop any vandalism to the ofrenda from happening again. He has arranged for volunteers to watch the altar during both daytime and overnight shifts.

Throughout the night Tuesday, people came from across the county to honor their family members at the display.

“I brought pictures of friends and family. I brought ten items here today,” said Neill Kovrig, who visited the ofrenda to honor his deceased loved ones.

“I would love to see this be a permanent establishment,” he added.

Organizers also informed San Diego police that the ofrenda will remain up until Thursday at 12 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come display pictures of their loved ones before it gets taken down.