Dia de los Muertos event at Avondale cemetery goes on, despite some calling it 'disrespectful'

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Despite some controversy, a Dia de los Muertos event still took place at a west Valley cemetery Saturday.

Jose Villela is deeply rooted in Arizona’s farmworkers' history and has 15 family members buried at Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery in Avondale.

The cemetery is the final resting place for more than 800 migrant workers who were employees of Goodyear Farms.

“I see these people lived in poverty. I see these people suffered as to the type of work they did,” said Villela.

Villela believes the men and women buried at the sacred site deserve more.

“In the past, we would get a hold of a priest, march into the cemetery with candles,” he added. “It’s sad. It's sad and I don’t think it should be celebrated by holding a party. It’s disrespectful.”

However, not everyone agrees with Villela’s concerns.

Hundreds of people showed up for the ninth annual Dia de los Muertos event organized by Ballet Folklorico and the City of Avondale.

Villela doesn't like the commercialization of the event with food and craft vendors. He said he has always opposed what they're doing, but decided to be more vocal this year because it's getting "too big" and "out of hand," in his opinion.

This is the seventh year it has been held at the Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery. The first year, it was held at Estrella Mountain Park and the second year at Estrella Mountain Community College according to one of the organizers.

He told AZ Family the Ballet Folkloric board decided to move it to the cemetery to make it “more authentic.”

“This is the authentic way Dia de los Muertos is supposed to be celebrated. On a gravesite with great music, food, and just happy and everyone in great spirits,” said Vprolific.

He added he feels what they’re doing is appropriate.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we respect his (Jose Villela’s) opinion,” he added.

So far, organizers have not indicated they have plans to move next year’s event location.