A cross Dia de los Muertos celebration: Public and private ofrendas are held across Tahoe and Truckee to celebrate the day


An ofrenda at Las Panchitas Restaurant in Tahoe Vista.
Elizabeth White

Dia de los Muertos is the celebration of the continuation of the spirit after death — a celebration of life.

For the past four years, a group of friends in Kings Beach — including local artist Cruz Ortiz Zamarron, Kay Fox, the Boys and Girls Club, and many others in the community — united to celebrate Dia de los Muertos with installations of several public ofrendas. These bright and colorful altars which honor the dead can be found around the North Tahoe region.

The first installations of the ofrendas were located at Kings Beach Library, Spindleshanks and Las Panchitas, and are installed about a week before the holiday. That’s usually followed by a celebration each Nov. 2 on Dia de los Muertos at the North Tahoe Event Center.

The Dia de los Muertos celebration that usually takes place at the event center has taken a pause this year and last due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“But the ofrendas are up and people can add to them. That way they are always developing, always changing. An ofrenda is a living thing in that sense.” said Cruz.

According to Cruz, in many Latin American cultures it is believed that death continues into a world called Mitclan, which is the underworld, until the soul walks from the underworld into the land of paradise. On Dia de los Muertos, it is believed that loved ones come back from the dead to celebrate with their friends and family.

“It’s a public ofrenda, which means that people are able to come and write the names of their loved ones on cards … or bring copies of their loved ones and put them on the ofrendas. Also little remembrances like food, drinks, toys,” said Cruz.

The ofrendas will remain for public use until after Nov. 2, and are at the Kings Beach Library, at 301 Secline St., in Kings Beach, and Las Pachitas restaurant, at 8345 N. Lake Blvd., in Tahoe Vista. Cruz hopes to be able to work with organizations in Truckee in the future to have a cross Dia de los Muertes celebration. Those who are interested in connecting with the North Lake Tahoe Dia de los Muertos group can visit its Facebook page: Dia de los Muertos Kings Beach Lake Tahoe.

Ofrenda at the Kings Beach library, decorated with sugar skulls made by children at the Boys and Girls Club of Kings Beach
Elizabeth White


Emiliano Morales, a junior at Truckee High School, said his family keeps up ofrendas in the form of pictures “just to honor” specific family members.

“It kind of makes you reflect on who they were and how they impacted your life,” the 15-year-old Latina La Fuerza member said.

Morales, whose favorite subject is math, said his family has pictures of his grandparents and uncle.

“My uncle was really connected with my parents,” Morales said. “On my mom’s side of the family they have 13 siblings. He was the oldest and he had a lot of impact on my siblings, and also on me. I was close to him, he always used to make me laugh and told me stories from when he was in Mexico.”

Morales said the notion of an ofrenda, even if he does not keep up the physical tradition as he ages, will forever be embedded in his experience of loss.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have a specific ofrenda for them, but I would have them in my memories,” Morales said. “It is important to honor the dead and what they did while they were living.”

Morales belongs to Latina La Fuerza, a group of Latinx students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District that one high school teacher — and Berkeley Ph.D. — Craig Rowe has made his mission to support. Last year, members of the group put together a video of students speaking on behalf of literacy and libraries, said Louise Zabriskie, of Friends of the Truckee Library. The video helped gain a grant for the North Lake Tahoe branch.

Even though at times the town feels overwhelmingly touristy, Morales said it has felt like home “for all 15 years of my life.”

“Truckee is very welcoming,” Morales said. “Especially in school, where everyone knows each other.”

Zabriskie, proud of the library’s ascending luminaries, said she is grateful to see collaboration and interest in diversity by the North Lake Tahoe community members.

“Anything we can do to promote the community (is good),” Zabriskie said. “It takes a lot of work to reach out to the community (just based) off of where they live.”

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

Staff Writer Rebecca O’Neil contributed to this report

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User