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The story of Centro’s Day of the Dead 5K with founder + chef Angela Salamanca

Centro is holding its 11th Day of the Dead 5K on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. Founder Angela Salamanca was introduced to a holiday originating in Mexico by her staff 14 years ago and has loved the celebration of life since.

Angela Salamanca

Angela Salamanca is the owner of Centro, Gallo Pelón, and Ex-Voto.

Photo provided by Andrea Weigl

Chef Angela Salamanca is the owner of Centro, Gallo Pelón, and Ex-Voto in Durham Food Hall, as well as the founder of the Day of the Dead 5K, a race through downtown and Oakwood Cemetery on Oct. 28. We sat down with Salamanca and talked about all things Dia de los Muertos, the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club, and what she’s loving in Raleigh.

Salamanca is originally from Colombia and didn’t celebrate Day of the Dead, a holiday originating in Mexico, until fourteen years ago when her Centro staff set up an ofrenda (Read: an altar built to honor loved ones who have died) on Dia de los Muertos.

“We all gathered around, and it was such a beautiful thing and unexpected for me,” Salamanca told RALtoday. “I had lost my sister a few years prior to that, and it really gave me an opportunity to start feeling her loss in a way that was that was celebratory and colorful with the community. So I was like ‘Well, I love all of this. How do we do more of it?’”

Runners speed under a cemetery gate.

Runners traverse through historic Oakwood’s cemetery as part of the race.

Photo provided by Andrea Weigl

After Salamanca’s first Day of the Dead celebration with her staff, Centro started a bike race that was met with community enthusiasm. To reach more folks, the race evolved into a 5K and has been running for 11 years. Using the race, Salamanca also began raising funds for the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club, which serves the Latin American community — specifically children.

Over the years, the 5K has raised over $170,000 for the club and has become a part of its annual budget. Children in the Boys & Girls Club also have the opportunity to run in the race with a community donation of $35.

“It’s an easy 5K for a grown-up runner — Raleigh’s a little hilly so it can be a little challenging — but for them, it is such an accomplishment,” Salamanca said. “you can see it in their little faces, how excited they are and how they cheer each other on to the finish line.”

Register as a racer or sponsor a little runner from the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club.

An ofrenda

Ofrendas are ways to honor loved ones who have died with pictures, flowers, food, and other offerings.

Photo provided by Andrea Weigl

For more Day of the Dead events, don’t forget to visit Oakwood Cemetery on Sunday, Oct. 29 for Dia de Oakwood from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. View a large-scale art installation, participate in community ofrendas, and stay for a free screening of “Coco” to celebrate the holiday.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, head back to Oakwood Cemetery from 4 to 8 p.m. for more Dia de los Muertos festivities featuring a copal ceremony, live music, poetry + dancing, a Catrina parade, sugar skull painting, and local food trucks.

As for Salamanca’s endeavors as a chef + restaurant owner, keep an eye out for Mala Pata, a new concept from Salamanca and her Ex-Voto partner Marshall Davis in Gateway Plaza. No opening date has been announced, but the Mala Pata team is working hard to make it happen.

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