Embracing Dia De Los Muertos
Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery held their 7th Annual Dia De Los Muertos event this last Sunday on November 6. Los Angeles has a large amount of Latin families living in this enormously diverse city and have embraced one of Mexico’s popular holidays, Day of the Dead. This celebration has become very popular in Los Angeles, and all over the county. Individuals from different backgrounds have educated themselves on the day's meaning, and have learned to embrace this holiday in which rather than mourning death, they celebrate it.
The second you walk up to the entrance, a huge alter over 7-feet tall covered in marigolds, colorful skulls, bottles of hot sauce and images of those deceased was presented by the ladies of Familia Latinas Unidas, who also constructed the display. Familia Latinas Unidas are an organization of Latin parents who are located in Virginia Park, Santa Monica. These ladies grew up embracing Dia De Los Muertas traditions in their hometowns of Mexico and wanted to bring these rituals with them. Not only did they provide a sight for sore-eyes but provided information that educated people even more on exactly how Mexico celebrates its dead. Every region in Mexico has a different way to commemorate the dead during Dia De Los Muertos.
This holiday is fairly new to Santa Monica Woodlawn Cemetery. Many local neighbors and families came out and participated in many of the activities offered, which included face painting, live shows, presentations and indulged in some delicious traditional foods.
As you walk past the lines of people waiting to get their face painted, or for the food trucks of local companies, you will approach the mausoleum in which presentations were being held, and more alters have been created with marigolds illuminating the interior of the dim, all white marble building. Cindy Morales, a local to Santa Monica who was born and raised on 21st and Pico Blvd, celebrates for the first time at the Woodlawn Cemetery by creating an altar for the Morales family. Her great-grandfather migrated to Santa Monica from Guanajuato, Mexico, around 1903.
"He owned a piece of land by the Brickyard, and in those days to be an immigrant and own land was abnormal," shared Morales. Over five of the family members have been buried in the mausoleum. She says that they usually have an altar at home that stays up year round, but when presented with the option to create an altar for the Rancho families, they thought why not do Morales, having over seven generations present and having this history behind them.
Maureen Benoti, founder of Phototherapy, caught plenty of attention walking around the grounds with a headpiece seeming as if it was weighing her down carrying a big bowl of fruit and fluorescent colors of yellow, blue and red which represent the flag of Columbia where she’s from. She wore a folkloric dress that represented Palenque in Cartagena, Colombia, which is the last standing slave hide away village in the world, according to Maureen. It was of great importance to her to share this fact when explaining her attire to the attendees. Even though it isn’t traditional of Columbia to celebrate this occasion, she loves what Dia De Los Muertos represents and wanted to embrace both by creating this look for herself and came prepared to share her story.
As this annual event grows and many more are attracted year after year, these stories are the example of new traditions and cultures that have gained recognition by many all over the city. You don’t have to have a Mexican background but if you wish to explore new rituals when dealing with death, places like Woodlawn Cemetery welcome this vibrant holiday each year which are welcomed to all of the public.
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