There are many Day of the Dead Festivals throughout Los Angeles. This celebration of life, memories, and the soul that survives when the body departs is a key part of Aztec culture. Once held in August, the Spanish moved the holiday to November 1, to coincide with the very Catholic All Souls Day. Today, in Southern California, the celebrations begin before Halloween and stretch into November.
October 24th was the date for this year’s Hollywood Forever Dios de los Muertos celebration, and it was a jam packed and eventful as ever. Titled this year the “Shamanic Visions of the Huichol,” the Huichol were once considered a culture of shamans, and the sense of a conjured and dream like tribute was certainly a part of this year’s dazzling event. A mash-up of art scene, costume party, great music and dance, this is a “Deadman’s Party” even Oingo Boingo would be thrilled to attend.
Naturally, the centerpiece here are the altars, crafted by a myriad of participants from individuals to art schools to non-profits.
Also on display: amazing musical artistry on three separate stages throughout the cemetery. Among the musical highlights was the tempestuous, sensual vocals of Malena Durán, and the rhythmic, dream-like dances of the Libre Movimiento. Also on hand: authentic Mexican dishes from food booths – one highlight a UFO-sized quesadilla, crafts vendors offering handmade jewelry and clothing, and a central art exhibition in the Cathedral Mausoleum.
A glimpse at some of the Mausoleum-housed curated art show.
The event runs from 12 noon to 12 midnight. During the day, it’s a brightly colorful event in an appropriate setting.
Fix Nation: among the stray kitties to be fixed are those that “haunt” the cemetery grounds. Great cause, for great paws.
As night falls, colorful lights click on everywhere, vibrantly patterned light shows are projected on the walls of crypts, and glittering colored orbs float in the cemetery’s moat. A procession with Aztec blessings and dancers, costume contests, children’s art workshops, and of course, the stunning attire of both attendees and participants add to the experience.
While there are other Day of the Dead celebrations throughout the Southland, the Hollywood Forever setting – punk rocker Johnny Ramone is buried here, as is Rudolph Valentino, and Mickey Rooney – make this experience hard to top. The beauty of the cemetery itself is offset by a truly magical experience that melds music, dance, lovingly crafted altars, costumes, and lights.
Live deliciously dangerously: take on the Day of the Dead at Hollywood Forever.