Handmade decorated altars lined the walkways at the annual Día de los Muertos celebration at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday October 22, as families and groups honored those who have died. The celebration of Day of the Dead, held at the beginning of November, has been a tradition in the area around Oaxaca, Mexico, long before the arrival of the Conquistadors, and was incorporated by the colonizing Spaniards into the Catholic holy days of All Souls and All Saints.
The Hollywood Forever celebration–which features live traditional music, Aztec dance troupes, vendors and thousands of people–is held here the weekend before Halloween. This year–along with altars honoring family, friends and pets which line the walkways between the graves–the meticulous and beautiful displays included a tribute to lives lost in the Twin Towers, bicyclists killed while riding, and a huge altar dedicated to the over 58,000 Vietnam War soldiers killed in action. One man incorporated photographs of Troy Davis and Steve Jobs into his altar dedicated to Anima Sola along with images of his family members; while filmmaker Oliver Quintanillo’s traditional altar was one of several utilizing video footage, in this case of his documentary showing Dia de los Muertos celebrations in eight different Oaxacan towns. Punk rock legends Johnny and Dee Ramone are buried at Hollywood Forever, and their fans created lavish displays; next to Johnny’s a vendor hawked merchandize.
Families strolled together, couples on dates held hands, and costumed visitors, many–in traditional Mexican calaveras make-up–took in the sights, including an exhibit of Dr Paul Koudounaris’ photos from the book Empire of Death staged in one of the cemetery’s grand mausoleums.
This cross-cultural celebration brings together people from all walks of life in Los Angeles, reminding us that in the midst of life we are in death, that death is the great equalizer, and we must make the most of our time while incarnate. [cont’d.]