Olvera Street Day of the Dead – Los Angeles with an Aztec Flair

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Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles burst with color, reverence, and dance for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration and procession.

illustrated story from Day of the Dead by Posada

José Guadalupe Posada (1851–1913) was a Mexican illustrator known for his satirical and politically acute calaveras (skull illustrations) deeply embedded into the cultural context of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), which led to a new appreciation of the indigenous past.

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is yearly celebrated in Mexico and many other countries during the last days of October through the first week of November.  A time to communicate with the ancestors, it honors the death-transition from one life to another.  Blending the Roman Catholic All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) with pre-Hispanic Meso-American indigenous Nahua traditions (Aztecs, Toltecas, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec as well as the non-Nahua Maya) death becomes a colorful dance, where souls never die, they rest in Mictlan.

Pre-Spaniard, this celebration took place in August, an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl.

STORY: Day of the Dead Calaveras and Walking Altars

Ofrendas or offerings might include orange marigolds to attract the souls, toys bought for departed children, bottles of tequila, candies, pan de muerto, and sugar skulls with the deceased named written on the forehead for nourishment, altars with candles, Christian crosses, and pictures of deceased relatives.

Women with Calacas

People paint on or wear wooden skull masks called calacas. Aztec and other calaveras or skeletons can also be Day of the Dead poems written to make fun of the living.

File:Gran calavera eléctrica2.jpg

José Guadalupe Posada was best known for his calaveras assuming different disguises, satirizing life among the priviledged classes during the reign of Porfirio Díaz just prior to the 1910 revolution. Here is shown the famous “Calavera Electrica.”

La Placita Church at Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Photography By Jessica Aldridge and Jack Eidt

 

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Jack Eidt

About Jack Eidt

Writer, urban theorist, and environmental advocate, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion - Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com.