Vincent Matthew Franco
In celebration of Dia De Los Muertos, the Fairplex in Pomona, in partnership with Elite Car Club, hosted the fourth annual En Memoria, Dia De Los Muertos celebration from 4 -10 p.m. on Saturday.
This event celebrated loved ones who have died with not only the emblematic ofrendas, decorated altars displaying pictures of people who have died joined with their favorite dishes and flowers, that are common with the holiday but also implemented classic lowrider cars as part of the celebration.
There were also artists, musicians, vendors and car clubs from all around Southern California. And judges were on the scene to see who would take home trophies for various categories like the best paint job, best bike and best chopper.
The bass from the speakers could be heard long before one could even step foot into the area of the fairgrounds. Blasting out some of the most essential genres of music needed for any Hispanic heritage celebration: corridos, cumbias, funk and oldies. All of these were blaring from either the speakers of the show cars, boomboxes, or the DJs on either side of the event, oftentimes in disregard to one another.
The sights, sounds and smells of the entire celebration were that of a huge family gathering. The smoke from the barbecue stands overwhelmed the noses of visitors, and even the occasional sound of a helicopter chopping through the Pomona sky fit the scene just right.
Before the evening’s entertainment commenced, visitors had the opportunity to walk around and appreciate the numerous rows of candy-painted and immaculately detailed lowriders, each of which was an art piece of their own. Most of these cars sat parked in line, while others were hitting switches, or propped up on their hydraulics, almost as if they were posing for those walking by.
Since this was not just another car show, lots of folks had ofrendas to go along with their ranflas (Spanish slang for lowrider), showing pictures of their families and their car club members who had passed. Surrounded by cempasuchil flowers, or marigolds, and pan dulces, the combination of these two fixtures worked together perfectly.
Even if some cars did not have ofrendas, they stayed in spirit by adding plastic skulls dressed in the proper oldies’ attire while sitting in the front seat. The proper oldies attire is oversized thick flannels, fedoras with a feather on the side, and some Locs sunglasses. One car even had a life-sized casket in its trunk, surrounded by lit candles and lined with flowers.
“It’s a nice holiday to set aside time to dedicate to your loved ones who are no longer in the physical world,” Micheal Tejada, singer and harp player of the musical quartet Grupo Bella, said. “But you can still keep their memory alive and do things that help you remember them.”
Grupo Bella was one of the musical acts of the night, serenading guests with a traditional style of Mexican music called musica ranchera. It can be explained as a type of folk music that is usually played with all acoustic instruments and hardly ever requires a microphone for the singer, as they sing the words with power and poise. Grupo Bella never took the main stage but instead traveled around with instruments in hand, playing in random spots throughout the night.
To start off the night’s entertainment on the main stage was a ballet Folklorico recital, followed by a presentation of Aztec dances by a Pasadena collective called “Yankuititl.” Consisting of 14 members dressed in Aztec ceremonial garments, they announced their arrival from the back of the stage by blowing through seashells, letting out a roar, along with a thunderous beat of a single drum.
Making their way to the main ofrenda of the event, which was immersive and surrounded by monumental sugar skulls, or calaveras, the leader of the group led with a mug held high, with the smoke of incense coming out of it.
This was followed by a series of traditional Aztec dances that were passed down through centuries, all with different meanings. In one of the performances, the dancers made a plus sign that was meant to give thanks for all the needed resources the planet offers humans in the South, East, North and West.
“It’s a beautiful tradition, and I think it’s important to keep that going,” Melina Morelos, drummer for the cumbia group Los Malditos, said. “As a band, that is one of our main goals to keep our culture alive through music, through tradition, through remembering, it’s very important to remember where we come from.”
Los Malditos played second to last, opening up for the headlining band ‘Los Yesterdays.’ Their original cumbias had the dance floor packed, and all around attendees could be seen with a drink in hand, hitting a two-step dance, never skipping a beat.
“By performing here today, we just left a little piece of our culture, and hopefully the youngins get a little bit of that and take it with them,” Morelos said.
Between the acts DJ Xscape kept the jams flowing and all around were fitted Dodger hats, more Locs sunglasses, and tight ponytails bobbing up and down to the sounds of 1990s West Coast Hip-hop and G-funk(Gangster funk) music.
With that Los Yesterdays took the stage and graced the crowd with their neo-soul sound and singer Victor Benavides charming falsetto voice. Singing songs about the Chicano struggle, catching your ex out with the clothes you bought them and their new partner, or just how “Life ain’t Pretty… but it still is pretty good.”
“We didn’t anticipate such a big crowd because of the cold,” said Benavides. “But people are representing … and so we were happy to see all the people here, so that makes us really want to perform harder.”
Los Yesterdays capped off their set with their most famous song “Nobody’s Clown,” and it was as if the entire crowd at the fairgrounds had stopped what they were doing to sing along with Benavides. In every direction, people could be seen holding and dancing with their loved ones, whether it be their partner or their group of friends.
En Memoria was not just a celebration for those who have passed, but it was also a reminder to folks to celebrate and enjoy life for those who can not anymore.
Vincent M. Franco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.