MIAMI – Sen. John McCain and pop singer Prince are some of the late figures being honored this year at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead has taken root and thousands of people parade wearing skeleton costumes and skulls parade through the streets every Nov. 2.
More than 10,000 people are expected to participate in the program that has made Fort Lauderdale one of the top US destinations for celebrating the Day of the Dead, even though it is not a city on the border with Mexico and does not have a large Mexican community.
The highlight of the popular festival, which was created nine years ago by master puppeteer Jim Hammond and a group of local artists, is the “Skeleton Procession” led by 50 giant puppets and with musical entertainment by mariachis in the heart of the city.
But the program for an event with the motto “In memory of the dead, party for the living” has much more to offer, ranging from folkloric dances from different Latin American countries to food, crafts and live music.
The organizers’ mission is “to produce an event for all ages that maintains and respects the traditions of the Day of the Dead,” Hammond told EFE, and tradition mandates that the dead receive “offerings” or “gifts.”
Standing out among the 35 altars created this year by local artists in one of the buildings of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, are the ones dedicated to Republican Sen. John McCain, who died last September, and the multi-faceted pop singer Prince, who passed away in 2016.
This last altar is dominated by just one color: purple, one of Prince’s hallmarks.
The altar’s obligatory skull sports a purple beret and a huge, dark pair of sunglasses and placed on it is a photograph of the singer accompanied by flowers, candles and a small sports car.
Much more sober and institutional is the altar dedicated to McCain, which features an American flag, an official photograph, a political message and a soldier wearing camouflage, thus alluding to the lawmaker’s military service – and the fact that he was taken prisoner – in the Vietnam War.
However, the most curious offering of them all is the one dedicated to “Costello,” Jim Hammond’s beloved “four-pawed son,” who passed away a few months ago.
Fort Lauderdale is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Miami and the Day of the Dead celebration there is being supported by the Mexican consulate, thus ensuring its authenticity.