Día de los Muertos is a two-day celebration of life on November 1st and 2nd. It is widely celebrated by most Latinos but is predominantly observed in Mexico. It is believed that during the celebration of Día de los Muertos, the veil between the living and dead thins, allowing family members who have passed on to visit their loved ones. Olvera Street, also known as Placita Olvera, held a celebration for Día de los Muertos, spanning nine days from October 25th to November 2nd. The merchants of Olvera Street have held this celebration for over 30 years. 

The event had different types of entertainment for families to enjoy. Their nightly program consisted of many dances and processions. Attendees were also able to get their faces painted and shop from the vendors. On Saturday morning October 28, they held a 5K race known as “Carrera de los Muertos.”

When walking into Olvera Street from Union Station, attendees were immersed with papel picado surrounding the street. Many surrounded the main gazebo where the entertainment was held. Patrons were able to purchase snacks like fruit, esquites, agua fresca and duritos. Walking around the plaza, there were public ofrendas done by the merchants of Olvera Street, as well as a community ofrenda presented by Disney’s “Coco” and the Los Angeles Rams. Patrons were able to write the names of their loved ones with messages. Some also placed photos of their families who passed on.

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Altars made by the community of Olvera Street to commemorate their loved ones. Photo by Cassidy Reyna

The main events of the night were the Danza de la Muerte and the Novenario Procession. The Danza de la Muerte was performed by the Teatro del Barrio. The performance told the story of Día de los Muertos, emphasizing its indigenous roots and how it has transformed into our modern-day celebrations. Audience members watched in awe and the children in the crowd were able to interact with the performers. It was absolutely beautiful and it told the story in a way that all audience members could enjoy and understand.

Attendee Lucia Medina is a 37-year-old business owner who resides in Los Angeles. She was attending the event with excitement as she came to honor her family members and family cat who recently died. “What it means to us [Medina and her family] is remembering our loved ones, including our pets and keeping their memory alive,” Medina said, talking about what the celebration meant to her. 

Medina and her family have an ofrenda at home. When making their ofrenda, they look forward to remembering the beautiful memories they built with family members who passed on. “On our ofrenda, we have the traditional papel picado, flowers, candles, water and pan de muerto. We also put food that they liked. My father-in-law liked to play poker a lot, so we placed playing cards, E & J Brandy, and coffee on the ofrenda for him. On Halloween, we have a big dinner with foods they like and eat it like a buffet,” Medina said.

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Danzantes walking through Olvera Street Photo by Cassidy Reyna

CALÓ News asked Medina how she viewed the event put on by Olvera Street vendors and she appreciated its beauty. “I think it’s beautiful. It makes it family-oriented, and I love how they make it true to the history but fun for the kids. It will make them want to learn about their culture,” Medina said.

20-year-old college student Myriam Hinojosa from Bell Gardens also attended the celebration and felt emotional about the event.

“What Día de los Muertos means to me is the day of remembering my loved ones. It’s the night they come back to visit the land of the living. In this celebration, I honor my Tio Martín, my grandma Ester, grandpa Alfonso and Grandpa Luis,” Hinojosa said.  

Hinojosa said she makes sure to set up an altar every year on the Day of the Dead so they know they are still remembered and dearly missed. 

“I always look forward to setting up the altar, placing my loved ones’ photos on it and being able to spread the cempasúchitl (marigolds) all around the altar, as well as being able to place their belongings and favorite foods.” 

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Teatro del Barrio performers during the Danza de la Muerte. Photo by Cassidy Reyna

Some of the foods that Hinojosa places on her altar are fruits like guavas, pomegranate, zapote, bananas and grapes. She also places her loved ones’ favorite alcohol like tequila. 

Following the Danza de la Muerte was the Novenario Procession. A parade with a traditional Mayan blessing or soul cleansing, Grupo Tartalejos, an indigenous Aztec group leading the procession with incense and ceremonial blessing, Aztec dancers, and “Living Muertos”—participants dress up as skeletons. The parade leads to the ceremony in the plaza, where the loved ones of a merchant family or special community member are chosen to be honored.

Olvera Street’s celebration of Día De Los Muertos was beautifully put together and brought together many Latinos to celebrate and honor their family members who have passed on. 

Cassidy Reyna (she/they) is a Los Angeles native and California State University, Long Beach Journalism graduate. While they were at CSULB, they were Managing Editor for Arts & Design for DÍG en Español...