A recent trip to Los Angeles coincided with the celebration of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), arguably the most renowned festival in the Mexican yearly calendar. This particular event I went to, was the 19th edition that took place at Hollywood Forever, which is the only cemetery in North America that opens its gates and welcomes its surrounding community to commemorate El Día de Los Muertos.
This was a first time experience for me, I had heard about it for years, but I did not know what it was all about. If anything, in my ignorance, I had thought it was a mournful sort of celebration. Little did I know it was actually quite the opposite. In Mexican culture, it is seen as a happy and colourful celebration where death takes a lively, friendly expression and it is not frightening or strange.
In Mexican art, legends, and religion, death has not been a mysterious and fearful presence, but a realistic recognizable character as much a part of life as life itself.
I was only there for a few hours, with just enough time for me to scratch the surface, and get a general feel for what looked like a rich, colourful, meaningful and very much a family orientated cultural celebration. Amongst the many things that grabbed my attention, was the sense of proudness that came across from the various families and individuals I spoke to. They expressed themselves beautifully well, and spoke to me openly about something I knew nothing about: the essence and joy of celebrating and 'spending' time with their dead relatives. "We are here to celebrate the lives of our dead relatives, we are not here to mourn', said Francisco.
That simple and succinct way of putting it, really brought it home for me. It was certainly an eye opener, and from then on, it all started to make more sense to me. I realised that seeing it from that perspective, it could definitely have so much meaning, and bring endless happiness into someone's life.
Something else that caught my eye, was the sophistication of the carefully elaborated costumes, as well as the wonderfully crafted make-up they were wearing. One could scrutinise it for ages, and have great fun looking at the colours, textures and the attention to detail that went into it. Fortunately for me, they all seemed to be super proud of 'showing off', and were very keen to talk, share, smile and be photographed.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank these beautiful people for their openness, their warmth, and for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to share a few precious moments with them.