They’re Not Numbers, They’re People | A Community Ofrenda

by artists Cosme Cordova and Martin Sanchez

UPDATE: For those who cannot visit the altar at the museum, digital submissions will be accepted. Create your papel picado or cempasúchil honoring your lost loved one, take a photo, and tag us on Instagram #theyarepeoplenotnumbers or send to We will then print it and add them to the altar for you.


To commemorate the lives of those lost from COVID-19, the Riverside Art Museum is collaborating with artist and Riverside Day of the Dead organizer Cosme Cordova and Martin Sanchez of Tio’s Tacos to create a ceremonial altar or ofrenda in the front of the museum. The project entitled, “They’re Not Numbers, They’re People,” invites the community to participate October 31–November 7, 2020.

“As we all know, this year has been especially difficult for our community as COVID-19 has taken the lives of many of our relatives, friends, and neighbors,” says Eric Martinez, artist and RAM staff member. “Unfortunately, too many are simply seen as numbers. The community challenged RAM to create a visual display that honors the memories of loved ones lost as people and not just statistics. In response, we outreached to local artists Cosme Cordova and Martin Sanchez to build this community ofrenda.”

The community is invited to participate in the ofrenda by adding items such as a paper cempasúchil, a type of marigold flower native to Mexico, or papel picado (see below for downloadable templates and instructions). 

“An ofrenda is our opportunity to honor our family and friends who have passed, and to hopefully provide them with items necessary for their journey,” adds Martinez. “A chance, possibly, to remind them and ourselves, that we still love them. I hope this can serve as a chance for those of us who have lost loved ones to support one another as well.”

Cempasúchil and Papel Picado Templates

A downloadable template for papel picado designed by RAM staff member Bethany Molyneaux is available by clicking herehere, and here. Community members can add a unique message for their loved one using one of the templates and drawing/writing in the blank spaces, and then bring the papel picado to the museum to place on the altar.

To make a paper cempasúchildownload this template and print out two copies. You’ll also need orange and green crayons, markers, or paints; scissors; and a glue stick. Color the petals orange and the leaves, green. Cut out all the petals and leaves. As you stack the petals from large to small, glue them down at the center of the flower. Then glue the leaves to the underside of the flower.

A video is below on how to make a tissue-paper marigold flower instead, which can also be customized and brought to the ofrenda.