Altars and All About Dia de Los Muertos

by Keira Mohammed

Kid Scoop Media Correspondent

Age 11, CCMS student

Dia de Los Muertos is a day to celebrate the dead and a time for the spirits to come and rejoin the living.

On my first Kid Scoop Media assignment I got to experience the celebration at the annual festival at the Hollywood Forever cemetery on Saturday, October 28. However in true tradition Dia del los Muertos is always observed after Halloween on November 1st and 2nd.

As I walked around the festival the first thing I noticed were altars that were covered in autumn-colored flowers. These flowers were marigolds, and their scent summons the spirits of the dead. Altars are used to honor and show respect for one's ancestors or other people who have passed away. Some altars displayed favorite foods and objects of the family member and others were built to represent a theme.

The Otis College of Art and Design did a display about endangered and extinct animals. They used paper-maché and recycled materials such as pool noodles to create animals like dolphins, monkeys and a partially-buried mammoth. This was honoring the spirits of extinct animals as well as displaying endangered species that we humans should be helping.

The TransLatina Coalition created an altar for both the dead and living in the transgender community. Activist Bamby Salcedo and the trans group explained that there have been 27 transgender deaths in the U.S in the past year. These people were killed solely because they were transgender. (Transgenders also die because they are not receiving medical treatment.)

The altar is to honor them but also to spread the message that we should rise up as one because trans lives matter.

There was also an altar honoring various LAPD policemen who were killed while on duty since the early beginning of the department. Rebecca Escobar, the creator and artist, researched facts and favorite items about different police officers in LAPD. "Every little trinket represents part of their life," she explained. The altar was called 'Windows of the Begotten Blue,' and each officer had their own window. We spotted personal details such as Baskin-Robbins ice cream cups, army figurines and toy planes. There was even a Starbucks cup that had an officer's favorite coffee order listed on it. She also informed me that there had been 36 LAPD police dogs that have died while on duty and they had their own window as well.

A highlight of the day, and perhaps the most entrancing of them all, was the altar created by Ingrid Miranda Garcia. Ingrid's altar was honoring her mother, grandmother and grandfather. They were from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Her altar displayed many of their favorite foods, including the family treat of boiled and spiced grasshoppers. Copal, the incense she burned, was to summon the spirits of her family. The archway she made was to represent the gateway between the dead and the living.

"In indigenous culture it is good to know that you are connected to the cosmos and the earth and that everything around you is Mother Nature itself working," Ingrid described. "That's mainly what our whole tradition is about, just mainly getting back to your roots, the earth, what keeps us alive, being eco-friendly."

I felt very connected to her representation of her traditions.

I ended my journey eating Mexican food from Kay n Dave's while sitting on a gravestone with my family. This was a nice ending to my experience because we joined together with the rest of the community as we celebrated this amazing holiday.


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