Dia de los Muertos marks new start for Encinitas alleys


The revitalization of downtown Encinitas alleys with a checkered past kicked off Nov. 1 with a Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Just after sunset, girls in colorful dresses performed traditional Mexican folk dances for the occasion. They sashayed and clopped their clogs in front of a new Dia de los Muertos mural splashed across an alley wall, between D and E streets to the west of Coast Highway 101.

The mural, behind Coast Hwy Traders, is the first of a handful planned for the downtown alleys. Landscaping, along with lighting to illuminate the artwork, is on tap, too. The idea is to increase foot traffic, driving away drug dealers and other criminal activity that has plagued the spaces.

“We’ve been talking a lot about this, and we’re excited to get going,” said Thora Guthrie, executive director of Encinitas 101 Mainstreet Association, which is spearheading what’s deemed the Alleyway Activation Program.

Guthrie said the campaign would also aid businesses that have set up in the alley.

“We’re getting more businesses operating out of the alleys, and making this creative and beautiful can only help them,” she said. “This will add to downtown.”

It’s anticipated that the Alleyway Activation Program will take a few years to complete, Guthrie said.

Because this is the inaugural mural and it’s Dia de Los Muertos-themed, Guthrie said it made sense to launch the alley initiative on the holiday, also called Day of the Dead. Bev Goodman, owner of Coast Hwy Traders, wanted a mural to pay tribute to Day of the Dead, since she’s a big fan of the holiday and has Dia de Los Muertos items in her store.

“Thanks for coming out and seeing this,” Goodman told the crowd of about 125 at the event.

Dia de Los Muertos is an opportunity for people to honor the spirit of their deceased loved ones, which mural artist Debi Winger captured.

“The woman in the mural is celebrating a loved one, represented by the skeleton,” Winger said.

Winger teamed up with Mayra Navarro on the mural. It took about four days.

“It’s awesome — it’s exciting,” Navarro said of what it’s like to be the first mural in the project.

Surrounding businesses have chipped in to fund the Alley Activation Program. The initiative has also received grants from the city of Encinitas, as well as a grant from the county Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. And landscape architects Joy Lyndes and Jim Benedetti have donated services to the project.