The Story Behind a Massive Day of the Dead Altar in Pilsen

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For weeks, Isabel Hernández has worked on constructing a massive altar to honor all the souls from loved ones who have passed away on the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on Nov. 2.

The altar, that has the shape of a pyramid, has been placed in Hernández' garden for all the community to pay tribute to their beloved. She has also encouraged people from all around Pilsen to send photos of family members who have passed away to honor their memory and legacy.

Why is this altar seven levels? It’s because it symbolizes the seven stages that a soul goes through before getting to Heaven.

At the very top of the pyramid, there are Monarch Butterfly designs. Hernández cited that in Pre-Hispanic history, the Zapotec civilization believed that the Monarch Butterflies represent the return of the souls of the Dead.

And as any other traditional altar, it contains the four elements: water, fire, wind, and earth. The water is represented through glasses of water placed on the altar; the fire is represented by candles; the wind is represented by paper cutouts and the earth is represented by food.

Hernández hopes that this altar can inspire younger generations to keep Mexican traditions alive and continue to celebrate the spirits of those who are no longer with us in the physical world.

The iconic altar is located in Hernández' garden located in the area of 19th Street, Throop and Loomis.

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