Celebrating Día de los Muertos in Los Angeles

Credit to Bowerboy on Flickr

I have to say, I’m burnt out on Halloween. I buckle under the pressure of coming up with The Most Original Costume in the World. It stresses me out. My most original and relevant costume to date (an underaged Chinese gymnast) is two years old and even survived my recent move as a souvenir of brilliance, but alas, its 2008 Olympics relevance has ceded long ago. It’s not a costume you can “raise from the dead,” or the confines of my closet.

Costume stresses are cause to look at a different holiday to celebrate – one, perhaps, that entails one theme. Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that occurs on November 2nd every year, the day after Day of the Innocents. Look at it this way: There are less grueling (i.e. not dressing up as a sexy something) ways to celebrate the end of October while honoring our ancestors – and do how Mexicans and Mexican Americans do.

You can start by picking up the November Los Angeles Magazine issue, or The Ultimate Guide to Mexican Food in L.A., featuring the expertise of baja tours extraordinaire Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA), L.A. Mag editor Leslie Bargar Suter and critic Patrick Kuh.

And after you emerge from those pages with a new “To Eat” memo in your BlackBerry, you may as well add to that a “To Attend” memo with these Día de los Muertos events happening around town over the weekend and thereafter. Dress code? Calaca, if you dare. (See – I need these things decided for me.) 

  • Novenario Processions (Night Processions) on Olvera Street – Nightly, now through Tuesday, November 2, 2010: 7 PM

Catch the nightly, sightly pre-Columbian parade starting at Olvera Street Gallery entrance. After each procession, free Pan du Muerto (bread of the dead) and Champurrado (warm, thick chocolate drink with masa) will be served. Free. Metro stop: Union Station. Website

  • Día de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Saturday, October 30, 2010: 12 PM – 2 AM

Enjoy altar exhibits, processionals, Aztec Dancers, art, Ballet Folklorico performances, live music and more in the most appropriate site for a celebration honoring the dead. Guelaguetza will be on-site with their awesome Oaxacan food. La Monarca Bakery will be selling their specialty Pan du Muerto Metro as well as organic Oaxacan coffee, Mexican cookies, and bunuelos (Spanish fritters). $10 admission. Metro stop: Red Line – Hollywood/Vine. Website

  • Noche De Ofrenda at Self Help Graphics & Art – Saturday, October 30, 2010: 6 – 9 PM

This celebration is led by premier altar maker and community resident Ofelia Esparza and assisted by the entire Esparza Family. Everyone is encouraged to contribute ofrendas (offerings) to Self Help Graphics & Art’s Community Altar. Bring copies of photos of revolutionaries in your family. Platica, pan de muertos, poetry and chocolate are on the menu! Free. Metro Rapid Line 770, Stop: Cesar Chavez/Rowan. Website

  • Día de los Muertos Fiesta at The Gazebo on Olvera Street – Monday, November 1 & Tuesday, November 2, 2010: 10 AM – 6 PM

Honor your departed loved ones by observing the colorful, ancient Mexican ceremony with beautifully decorated altars, exhibits and entertainment. Free. Metro Stop: Union Station. Website

  • Dia de los Muertos: Revolucion sin Fronteras (Revolution Without Borders) at East Los Angeles Civic Center – Tuesday, November 2: 5 – 11 PM

4 PM – Day of the Dead Procession - There will be Calacas and face painting at Belvedere park’s Virgen de Guadalupe Mural (corner of Cesar Chavez Ave. & Mednik Avenue)

5 PM – Celebrate Day of the Dead with Self Help Graphics. Music, community altars, many food vendors and local arts & craft vendors will be there. Felipe Esparza NBC’s 2010 Last Comic Standing will be MC’ing. (Also peek the website for Dia de los Muertos art gallery openings and viewings.)

Free. Park at Metro Gold Line Atlantic Station, ride to East LA Civic Center. Website 

La Cabrona

Haven’t had enough? If you’re also jonesin’ to play up your palate in celebration of the day, be sure to stop by the recently-opened Pal Cabron (who will also have an altar on display) for cemitas and tlyudas. They’re absolutely delicious. Trust me. Also, Mitla will be at Test Kitchen Friday and Saturday – starring Josh Gil in the kitchen and the lovely Bricia Lopez curating the night. This is a great chance to get a sneak peek of the new concept by the two in the former West L.A. Guelaguetza, which opens on the West Side on November 18th.

So, what’s it going to be? Halloween or Day of the Dead? Maybe even both?

Day of the Dead: November 2, 2010

Celebrations all across Hollywood, East and Downtown LA. Hold and drag across map for addresses and locations.