Dia de los Muertos celebrated across L.A.

LOS ANGELES Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an ancient celebration that is always observed on Nov. 2.

A popular place to participate in Day of the Dead festivities is the Hollywood Forever cemetery, where every year, more people gather to witness ceremonial Aztec dancing, hear live music and create splendid altars to keep the memories of former loved ones alive.

Steve Acevedo, CEO and creative director at Chimmaya Gallery and Retail in East Los Angeles, said he has seen the interest in the holiday expand.

"Although it's largely celebrated within the Latino culture because it's where it originated, it now is celebrated by many, many different people," Acevedo said.

For the past six years, ChimMaya in East Los Angeles has brought together a variety of artists to exhibit and honor Dia de los Muertos through art and "ofrendas," or altars.

One altar that is featured was created by Emilia Garcia and Rudy Cardona and is dedicated to the Cardona family. Acevedo said the father and daughter had died within seven months of each other.

The beautiful altar is draped in the essential elements of a traditional altar handed down for centuries: an arch of fresh marigolds, playfully decorated skulls, various candles and bright paper cutouts, bowls of fruit and pan de muerte (bread of the dead) and multiple painted paper-mache skulls known as calaveras. Personal items of the deceased are also placed on the altar alongside photos.

The most famous symbol of the holiday is calaveras - whimsical skeletons often depicted doing humorous everyday activities.

With all of the sugar skulls, and because the two holidays are so close together on the calendar, Dia de los Muertos is often mistaken for Halloween.

But as Acevedo says, the two holidays have no relation at all.

"Dia de los Muertos is purely a celebration of our loved ones that have gone before us," he said. "There isn't anything ghoulish or scary."

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