The Dia de Los Muertos ‘papel picado’ that hang above 24th Street are in sad shape as their big day approaches, and SFist has learned they will not be replaced by Wednesday’s procession, though they may “eventually” be replaced with a more weather-proof, permanent version.
Another Halloween and night of trick-or-treating (or weekend of drunken reveling) is now in the books. Yet in San Francisco, that just means we make way for the Dia de Los Muertos Festival of Altars and Mission District Procession, both scheduled for Wednesday, November 2.
But something’s missing this year, or at least, large parts of something are missing. As you see in these photos, the Day of the Dead tissue paper replicas that have hung above 24th Street in the Mission are in a dismal, tattered condition, and SFist has learned that they will not be replaced in time for Wednesday’s proceedings. That said, they may be replaced in the future.
These decorations are known as papel picado. Obviously, the outdoor versions are not made of the traditional tissue paper. These are sturdier, plastic outdoor versions, though obviously not sturdy enough to last outdoors for an entire year.
As seen above, these first went up on October 30 and November 1, 2020, and were an absolute joy for the neighborhood. They were an effort of Mission District non-profit Calle 24, plus the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and other community groups. In 2021, they were replaced on October 25.
They will not be replaced this year, though, at least not in time for Dia de los Muertos festivities. Calle 24 councilmember Eric Arguello tells SFist that these may be replaced “eventually,” but not this year because of a “funding issue.” But Arguello also adds that “we’re looking for something permanent,” which is to say, a version of the papel picado can truly last through the years without needing annual replacements.
Some of these are still in okay, passable condition. But other papel picado on 24th Street are in such disrepair that they give you a sense of a dispiriting lack of upkeep. And in some cases, pretty much nothing but colored strings remain above 24th Street.
It’s not as if there is no joy on 24th Street for this year’s Dia de los Muertos. Many small businesses are going absolutely all-out for the holiday, like Mixcoatl Arts & Crafts seen above. It’s still going to be a good Day of the Dead, and I understand this is not the most important issue facing San Francisco right now.
But I’m no parent, so I don’t know if the neighborhood kids consider it some huge downer that these decorations are in tatters for their big day. But we can at least take heart that there are conversations that a new and better set of papel picado might rise the cold, dead condition of the current decorations.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist