Candles surrounded by orange chrysanthemums began at the doorway of Alianza Express, a money order establishment owned by Jair Andrade located at Ninth and League streets. They led toward a corner filled with an “ofrenda,”or an offering in English, made to the deceased, locally famous doctor, José Castillo Hita or “Pepe” Castillo, as he was known in his community.
There was a mural painted on the wall of his face and some of his writing, clothing and favorite things were scattered around the mural. Fruits, figurines, bread, photos, candles and colorful skulls speckled the altar for Pepe Castillo. El día de los muertos stands for Day of the Dead in English and it is a yearly celebration of the lives that have been lost.
“From the last day of October to the second day in November, we believe they come in the house and they eat what they liked before they were dead,” Andrade said.
Casa Monarca, an art and culture education organization in Philadelphia, created the mural for Pepe Castillo. Each year they choose someone cherished in the community and make them an altar made up of all their favorite things from life. It’s a celebration of who they were and the life that they lived.
The organization wanted something that people could see and used the large front window to their advantage. People not from Mexico come in and ask why the pineapple or the beans are there.
“It’s some of his favorite foods. This altar is for the people to remember, to honor him,” Andrade said.