Michigan Races Honor Mexican Culture and Lost Loved Ones

The Mexican tradition of el Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a holiday meant for friends and family to remember, celebrate, and honor loved ones who have passed away.

Three upcoming Michigan races will bring the holiday to life as participants don traditional costumes, makeup, and attire. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of all three races, to be held in Muskegon, Saginaw and Detroit.

Joseph Stricker is the race director for the Saginaw race. He said the upcoming race is an important way to preserve cultural heritage. With Michigan’s proximity to Mexico so removed, people with roots there “have started to lose their culture, have started to lose where they come from.”

“If you know where you come from and you’re proud of who you are, that leads to a positive attitude and even helps with overall fitness and health,” Stricker said.

Jeremy Cantu 2
Jeremy Cantu and his wife, Priscilla. (Courtesy photo)

Jeremy Cantu, Stricker’s cousin, is participating in his second Dia de los Muertos race in Saginaw and this year, his wife, Priscilla, and daughter, Asela, 14, will join him. Cantu said the race is great for the local Hispanic community, providing a way to mix healthy lifestyle pursuits with a cultural celebration.

For Cantu and his family, focusing on good health and changing habits has been a new way of life. Cantu lost 100 pounds about four years ago and has mostly kept it off through eating right and consistent exercise. He’s glad his persistence is paying off and helping to motivate his wife and daughter to follow the same path. Events like the upcoming race keep Cantu going.

“It’s a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s really easy to get relaxed, but these races help me stay focused.”

Although he’s not focusing on a lost loved one at this year’s race, Cantu’s drive and passion are all about helping his daughter establish healthy habits so she won’t have to struggle with weight and its accompanying negative effects as he had to.

“I don’t want to let her down,” he said.

“That’s what this is all about,” Stricker said about his cousin and family. “When I see a family who may have had health issues start to get involved in health and fitness – that just really makes me happy.”

“The Dia de los Muertos runs are a great way to continue to celebrate the proud heritage of so many Latinos in Michigan while promoting health,” said eMily Alemán-McAlpine, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Senior Community Responsibility Liaison.

Want to participate in a Day of the Dead race near you? Here are the details:

  • Sunday, Nov. 1: Muskegon: Latinos Working for the Future is putting on their third annual run, which starts at 9 a.m. at the Muskegon YMCA. A Kids’ Dash fun run kicks off at 10 a.m. Participants are invited to dress up and bring decorations and items of remembrance to the event’s ofrenda. Register for the Muskegon race here.
  • Saturday, Nov. 7: Detroit: The Southwest Detroit Business Association’s Run of the Dead race takes participants through historic Holy Cross and Woodmere cemeteries. The race begins at 9 a.m. and you can register here.
  • Saturday, Nov. 7: Saginaw: The fifth annual run/walk starts from the Anderson Enrichment Center at 11 a.m., followed by a Kids’ Fun Run. Cultural displays will be featured inside the center and awards will be presented for best costume. All proceeds from the race will be donated back to the community. Register for the Saginaw race here.

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Photo credit: David Bote Estrada (main)

 

 

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