Day of the Dead digital altar reminds us of what we share

Día de Muertos

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Oct. 29. I’m Anita Chabria.

While ghouls, goblins and “Squid Game” characters will be out in full force ringing doorbells for treats this weekend, Monday is Día de Muertos — Day of the Dead — celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America and the United States as a remembrance of those gone but beloved forever.

This year for the first time, The Times is hosting a digital ofrenda, where readers can share photos and memories of lost loved ones.

As a well-established sentimental crier, I was hesitant to visit this beautiful page, dreamt up by Vanessa Martínez, Martina Ibáñez-Baldor, Fidel Martínez and many others here at the paper. But it was worth the tissues, and then some.

It’s filled with stories about tios, paw paws, dads, abuelitas and even a Mother Superior. Some of the photos are decades old, black-and-white shots of eras gone by. Some are much too fresh. A bunch are of cats. All are talismans of those missed with palpable grief.


Seeing all of these photos together is a reminder that even in these times of pandemic and divisiveness, a love of family — genetic, chosen or even four-legged — is something we all share. It is, as Fidel beautifully writes, “an opportunity to spend time with the memories of those who came before us. And though death is at the forefront, Día de Muertos is also a celebration of life.”

Take a minute to visit for yourself: Día de Muertos altar

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Poor neighborhoods bear the brunt of extreme heat. “Thermal inequities,” as scientists call them, checker the landscape of L.A. and other cities as they heat up from climate change. In a recent study that used satellite data from 2013 to 2019, UC Davis researchers found that California’s metro areas have greater temperature disparities between their poorest and wealthiest neighborhoods than any other state in the southwestern U.S. Los Angeles Times

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is rebranding itself as Meta in an effort to encompass its virtual-reality vision for the future — what Zuckerberg calls the “metaverse.” Skeptics point out that it also appears to be an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a leaked document trove so dubbed by a consortium of news organizations that include The Associated Press. Many of these documents, first described by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, have revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings of the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world. San Francisco Chronicle

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For Times scribe Daniel Miller, “The coo was like the voice of my L.A. childhood.” Miller takes us into a personal mystery in this essay about mourning doves, and why their gentle calls are no longer part of the L.A. soundscape, writing, “It is the sound of do-nothing summer afternoons in the pre-internet portion of my youth. Those were untold hours spent draped across the blue couch in my parents’ bedroom, immobilized by the un-air-conditioned upstairs air.” Los Angeles Times

Alec Baldwin said at the “30 Rock” wrap party in 2012 that he planned on retiring from acting. That idea didn’t stick. In the past decade, he has starred in films as diverse as “Blue Jasmine” and “Boss Baby”; this year, he joined Joshua Jackson and Christian Slater in the Peacock TV limited series “Dr. Death” before heading to New Mexico to star in “Rust,” the western that he helped to develop. Los Angeles Times

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Not content to wait for Congress to pass a big infrastructure spending bill, Gavin Newsom and Pete Buttigieg moved on Thursday to inject $5 billion in loan money to help modernize California’s seaports. The money won’t help unclog the severe congestion that’s creating seaport chaos at present, but the two say that modernizing ports and the truck and rail systems that serve them can prevent logistics nightmares in the future. Los Angeles Times

When you pass a McDonald’s, you might assume it’s operated by the global mega-corporation. But in many cases, it’s a franchise owned and run as a small business. Fast-food workers at stores scattered across California plan to walk off the job Nov. 9 and rally outside McDonald’s locations in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento in a push to expand legal liability beyond individual franchisees to their corporate franchisers and to protest workplace health and safety conditions, a change proposed by Assembly Bill 257, which will be debated in coming months. Los Angeles Times


Peggy York dies; first woman LAPD deputy chief, inspiration for TV’s ‘Cagney & Lacey.’ The story of Margaret “Peggy” York’s groundbreaking career with the Los Angeles Police Department reads like the script for a TV show. In fact, it was the basis for the hit 1980s show “Cagney & Lacey,” which depicted one of York’s many firsts as half of a female homicide investigative team. Los Angeles Times

The San Bernardino County Coroner announced Thursday that human remains found in open desert near Yucca Valley are those of Lauren Cho, who has been missing since June. Desert Sun

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News Analysis: It’s harder to justify COVID vaccine for children if pandemic’s end is near. Though health officials have given the go-ahead for children 5-11 to be vaccinated, they stopped short of recommending the shot for all children, pointing out that as case rates of coronavirus drop, the rare risk of a heart condition caused by the vaccine in some boys and men merits closer examination. Los Angeles Times

The two storms that pummeled Northern California and the Pacific Northwest recently were extraordinary for their intensity and for the historic amount of precipitation they dropped. They were also unusual because they occurred so early in the season. But how rare were they? Los Angeles Times


The 2018 documentary “Free Solo” celebrates a wide-eyed, shaggy-haired ectomorph named Alex Honnold, as he makes history — climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes or other safety gear. Yet even before the Academy-Award winning film provided a boost to a once-fringe sport, Honnold had inspired one important greenhorn to get up from her desk and out onto the rocks: his 58-year-old mother. Jim Rainey with a tale about never being too old. Los Angeles Times

The Belcampo Meat Co. mislabeling scandal continues in a remote corner of California where the fallout of the meat-labeling mess means hard times for employees, the Record Searchlight reports. The abrupt closure of Belcampo Meat Co.’s operations has left nearly 40 employees at its butchery in Siskiyou County jobless. Record Searchlight

This red blend is among the most influential products in modern wine history. But how long can it last with its unsettling imprisonment aesthetic? The SF Chron’s Esther Mobley brings knowledge and insight to a cult-favorite wine with a social justice problem. San Francisco Chronicle

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Los Angeles: 84 San Diego: 77 San Francisco: 65 San Jose: 72 Fresno: 79 Sacramento: 72


Today’s California memory is from Andie Manning:

In 1977, my husband and I crossed the state line in a borrowed car, destitute, and pulled into a market. We decided to spend 25 cents at the water vending machine, not knowing that it was meant for filling your own bottles. I watched the water pour out freely and cried, because I knew we couldn’t spare a second quarter. But we had hope: the Golden State promised opportunities for all! With hard work and fierce determination, the coming years brought citizenship, an education, a small business, and, eventually, a family home. California kept its promise to us.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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