By Lourdes Espinoza
The 3rd annual Dia de los Muertos event held at Mariachi Plaza offered the hundreds of local community residents who attended an array of entertainment and activities on Sunday, Nov. 4. This all-day event was free and open to the public hosted by the Boyle Heights International Farmer’s Market.
Dia de Los Muertos is a holiday that originated from both Spanish Catholicism which celebrated All Saints Day in November and native Mesoamerican traditions which held a strong belief in the afterlife.
During this day around the world, people celebrate life dedicated to lost loved ones through altars adorned with items such as “pan de muerto” (or bread of the dead), alcohol, marigold flowers, candles and pictures. ‘Calacas,’ or skulls and skeletons, were also an important part of All Saints Day festivals in medieval Europe.
Popular local talent like The Sound Reasons, Lint Vaccine, Thee Commons and Upground performed throughout the day to an eager crowd. Added between sets were ballet folklorico and Aztec dancing as well as a short play dedicated to the Mexican tale of ‘La Llorona.’
Covers of songs like Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Spell On You” were popular hits during the earlier hours. Children embraced the bands and began to dance along in front of the stage.
Voces Indigenas among other vendors were selling their own interpretations of ‘calacas’ in the forms of hand-made, clay-based jewelry, jugs and hair pieces. The proceeds made from non-profit Voces Indigenas are set to go to indigenous cities in Mexico in support of funding education and community events as the items being sold were brought from such areas.
Paper mache skulls, children’s toys and t-shirts were also sold alongside Mexican food and homemade ice cream. Plates of different dishes traveled along with the crowds.
Crowds reached maximum occupancy after dark as ‘La Llorona’ was heard among the fog machine screaming “Miiis hiijooos! Miiis hiijooos!”
‘La Llorona’ or ‘The Weeping Woman” is an old Mexican tale of a ghostly woman who wanders through rivers in search of her missing children. This humor-filled play was entertaining and impressive especially with the costumes and characters used although it lasted roughly an hour.
The older crowd responded with both familiarity and laughter as characters played on jokes revolving their Mexican and American roles in Boyle Heights. Ballet folklorico, or a traditional Mexican folk dance, was a colorful spectacle. Women and young girls all danced with their trademark uniform of bright long, lacy flowery dresses and ribbons.
Aztec dancing led a procession to the altar placed inside Mariachi Plaza. By the end of the night the altar was adorned by attendees with pictures, food and items in dedication to people they’ve lost but not forgotten.
The celebration continued into the night as later talent attracted younger crowds and families resided back to their homes.