Adela Marquez is not only a family counselor at the Hollywood Forever Funeral Home — the resting place of many of Hollywood’s greatest stars, she is also part of the family which founded the first Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebrations in a U.S. cemetery. She says, from what she knows, it is the largest celebration in the U.S. – with 30,000 attendees expected to attend from as far as Japan.
The 13th annual event will take place this year on Saturday, October 27, from 12pm to 12am, and will feature performances by Ozomatli, La Santa Cecilia Orchestra, hundreds of Aztec ritual dancers, traditional Mexican cuisine, art exhibitions, and more than 150 altars created by members of the community to honor their late loved ones.
“My sister Deisy had the vision of bringing our culture to the U.S.,” says Marquez, whose family originates from Zacatecas, Mexico.
She says the community will start building their altars tonight. Last year, her favorite one honored U.S. fallen soldiers, but she says they’ve also had altars honoring the memories of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
“There are three different stages and people have the opportunity to come see the altars around 3pm,” says Marquez. “The judges will judge and choose the winner, and the winner will be announced around 9pm.”
This year, altars are expected to honor the late singer Chavela Vargas, as well as one made by inner city kids for Para Los Ninos – an organization that works for children living in poverty in Los Angeles.
Marquez says she sees this celebration as a way to take the fear out of death, and to let the deceased know they are remembered and not forgotten.
“By us celebrating death, it’s a way of facing that fear,” she says.