What the Day of the Dead 5K Really Means to Angela Salamanca

What Centro’s Day of the Dead 5K really means to event director Angela Salamanca

Photos by Michael Palko

While you might have caught a glimpse of the costumed runners scampering along Wilmington Street in years past for Centro’s annual Day of the Dead 5K, there’s more to the race than meets the eye. 

Coming up on its 10-year anniversary this October, the race means something a little different to everyone involved. For some, it’s a great way to get fresh air and exercise while supporting the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club. For others, it’s the perfect fam-friendly outing combining running, face painting, dancing—and beer for those 21+. And yet for others, like Centro owner and event director Angela Salamanca, it serves a deeper purpose. 

In 2003, Salamanca lost her younger sister Margarita to suicide. 

“When she died, I was also really young. I think she was 25 and I was 26, and she was under my care,” say Salamanca. “And at the time… there weren’t the conversations in availability and normalization around mental health and help, so it was a tough, difficult, hard time for us.”

Salamanca was overcome with grief in the beginning, but after finding out she was pregnant soon thereafter, she pushed herself to think and feel differently. 

“I just kind of turned on a switch somewhere inside of me, and said, ‘I really need to be happier; I really need to be good; this baby needs all the best of me.’ And I stopped grieving out of necessity, out of—I don’t know why—it was a thing that I felt I needed to do out of survival,” she says. 

Fast-forward to 2009 when Centro was in its second year and Salamanca first learned about the Day of the Dead, when her kitchen staff, who were mostly Central American, asked if they could set up an altar in the restaurant. Altars are a key part of the holiday, as they are used to honor and celebrate the lives of deceased friends and family. 

“I’ve been able to stop equating death with darkness or grief with darkness, and I think the altar really shifts that for you,” Salamanca reflects. “I saw it as an opportunity for healing, and because I experienced it myself, I really wanted to share that with others.”

And she has. Since 2000 (minus 2020 and 2021), Salamanca and her staff have worked to educate others about the Day of the Dead by holding the 5K during the last weekend in October each year. In addition to the race, they set up an altar in Oakwood Cemetery, where runners—or anyone in the community—can come and celebrate loved ones they’ve lost. To boot, proceeds from the event benefit the Brentwood Boy & Girls Club, and many children within the organization take part in the race. 

2022 will be the last year that Salamanca and Centro host the 5K, as they are passing the reins to the Boys & Girls Club. But they are looking to go out with a bang. Their goal is to have 1,500 people register for the race—nearly double the number of participants they’ve had in the past. 

The key thing to remember? As Salamanca says, “This race can be anything that you want.” A way to give back to the community. A way to get your heart pumping while spending time with family and friends. Or a way to honor the memory of those you love. 

Race Details

Date & Time: Saturday, Oct. 29, 10am
Entry Fee: $35 until Oct. 27; $40 after
T-shirt: Free if you register before Oct. 3
Opportunity: Sponsor a child (or more) from the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club for an additional $30
Register: fsseries.com/event/day-of-the-dead-5k/register 

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.