Cargo’s Community Day of the Dead Altar

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For many years, Cargo has built an altar to commemorate the Day of the Dead. Over the years it has become a community altar, a way for anyone of any faith to remember the people who have made a difference in their lives. Everything from photos to jewelry to shoes have appeared on the altar in memory of the dead.

A traditional Dia de los Muertos altar consists of photos of family and friends who have passed on, mementos of their hobbies—or even vices, and food to refresh spirits who travel far to visit the altar. Traditional altars often feature marigolds, whose bright color is thought to signal the spirits from the afterworld. Similarly, incense and candles draw spirits nearer.

Aimee Miller is the creative force behind Cargo’s community altar. Each autumn she conceives of something grand enough to make customers stop in wonder, yet intimate enough to reward a good, long look. 

Aimee says when she’s planning an altar, she starts with the largest element. “That gives me a frame,” she says. This year, the altar is built around a hundred-year-old Indian theater front stretched just inside Cargo’s front door.

Next, she adds the largest secondary objects—in this case, a Philippine santo on the left and an antique Vietnamese statue of Saint Francis on the right. Despite the Christian icons, the altar is decidedly nondenominational. After all, the frame in from a part of India that is primarily Hindu, and the keen observer will even find statues of Guan Yen tucked here and there.

An organic layer is essential to Aimee’s vision. This year, she’s draped cascades of dried hops from the altar’s elaborate carved moldings and balconies. After that, she lets instinct draw her to the elements she’ll include: bottles of prosecco and Mexican soda pop, vibrant papel picado, gold ribbon streamers, strands of dried marigold blossoms, floating Italian putti.

Essential to the altar is space for photos and momentos. We invite you to bring photos of people and pets important to you but no longer with us to place on the community altar. Your participation helps make the altar a place of contemplation and love and reminds us that what we have in common is so much more important than what separates us.

We hope you’ll take part in our annual Day of the Dead remembrance and celebration on Saturday, November 3, from 3 pm to 7 pm. We’ll have music, traditional Mexican refreshments, and a table for kids’ crafts. 

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