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Día de los Muertos kicks off, celebrates the lives of those who have passed

The Mexican holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years, one restaurant owner in Portland says he wants to teach as many people as he can about the tradition.

PORTLAND, Maine — Día de los Muertos, or the day of the dead, kicks off this week.

Despite its name, the Mexican holiday isn't meant to be spooky; instead, it's a celebration to honor the lives of those loved ones who have passed on.

The folks at El Corazón, a restaurant in Portland specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine, say they look forward to the tradition every year. Right now, they have an altar lining the front window of the restaurant. It's filled with photos and other keepsakes of family members as well as lots of candles. 

This year they even put a picture up of the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and NBA sensation Koby Bryant. 

"We do get a lot of people who walk by and will look at it and take pictures," owner, Joseph Urtuzuastegui said. "The intention is to educate people and get them to participate in this joyous tradition."

This year, Urtuzuastegui's wife, Laura, had help from children at the Portland Public Library. They helped decorate candles for loved ones now on display in the restaurant. There is even a COVID-19 candle they are lighting in honor of those lives lost this year to the virus.

"This is for all the families who were so happy and then COVID came." Urtuzuastegui said.

"The key is that the alter keeps growing, that's the key." Urtuzuastegui said.

Urtuzuastegui added anyone is welcome to stop in and leave something in honor of a loved one. They plan to keep the display up through the entire month of November.

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