Halloween night, Santa Barbara’s Casa De La Raza, located at 601 E. Montecito St., hosted its second annual haunted house for local kids and teens. The house was designed, constructed, and operated on both October 30 and 31 by an entirely volunteer group ranging in age from under 11 to over 21 but made up mostly of local high school students. Many of this year’s volunteers heard about the haunted house through their friends who worked on it last year. The haunted house project, like many of Casa De La Raza’s other activities, fosters a sense of community in the participants and provides a neutral site for teens to interact. “We have kids from both sides,” said Lisa Valencia Sherrat, who has worked as a teacher at the center and also as coordinator of funds development for four years. Sherrat explained while the center is located on the eastside of downtown, it has proven to be a middle ground for conversation and healing within the community.
All proceeds went towards Casa De La Raza’s many social outreach programs, including youth groups, arts and music shows, and education programs like after school tutoring staffed by UCSB students. “I didn’t have homework so I came to help,” said Daniel Villagomez, who was wearing a ragged cloak and a fearsome mask and who attends the tutoring group.
Outside costumed children and their parents waited anxiously for their turn to brave the haunted labyrinth. The house was a large maze wonderfully decorated with all the gore and horror a proper haunted house should have, including a torture room, an autopsy room, and all manner of monsters and phantoms around every turn. Being Casa de La Raza it wouldn’t be complete without a Llorona or two. One of the haunted houses Lloronas, Selena Obispo, a Santa Barbara High School student, admitted she’s probably too old to be trick-or-treating anymore. “It’s more fun to scare here anyway,” she added.
Through creative fundraisers and community events, Casa de La Raza will continue to build a network of volunteers and participants that will grow to heal an often fractured and ignored population.