(Photo courtesy / Adriana Maestas)

How an East L.A. organization marks 40 years of Día de los Muertos celebrations

LOS ANGELES – For forty years, one non-profit art center has been helping Angelenos celebrate Día de los Muertos with arts, crafts, and exhibitions of art leading up to the November 2 holiday.

Self Help Graphics is an East Los Angeles based organization which has been serving the Latino community of Los Angeles through printmaking, workshops for children and emerging artists, and showcasing artwork.

It has also become known for promoting Día de los Muertos. Last Saturday it celebrated Noche de Ofrenda, an evening where altars are displayed. An ofrenda is an offering and refers to the altar constructed to remember ancestors and loved ones.  The term altar is also used synonymously to refer to the decorated table to honor loved ones who have passed.

The organization displayed 40 altars to commemorate the years it has been celebrating the Día de los Muertos season. Altars celebrating the lives of immigrants, fallen bicyclists, civil rights leaders and family members of the artists lined the perimeter of Grand Park overlooking city hall.

Evonne Gallardo, executive director of Self Help Graphics, told NBC Latino that preserving the reverence of the holiday is important especially with recent attempts to commercialize the holiday.

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“We are very purposeful about how we celebrate Día de los Muertos. It’s important for our community on a national scale to support organizations like Self Help who make a concerted effort to celebrate these traditions in a more sacred way that includes local artists and the local community,” Gallardo said.

She added, “There is always a bigger celebration that has a bigger budget and a bigger PR marketing arm. We are never going to compete with that, but we don’t need to. We have a combination of nostalgia, family, and tradition. You cannot reproduce that spirit or tradition with a large corporate event.”

Earlier this year Disney Enterprises Inc. dropped its attempt to trademark the term Día de los Muertos after public outcry.

Saturday’s Noche de Ofrenda featured poetry, indigenous prayer and dancing, as well as youth performances.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina attended the event and welcomed the crowd. Molina said that she was happy “to share this very significant day with the rest of Los Angeles and to share with them why we do what we do.” She made an altar that was displayed in remembrance of her father.

Self Help Graphics’ Día de los Muertos festivities will culminate this year on Saturday, November 2 at its facility in Boyle Heights with a ceremonial blessing and local food and craft vendors.

How an East L.A. organization marks 40 years of Día de los Muertos celebrations  adriana maestas e1372274661894 news NBC Latino News

Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the DailyGrito.com.  She resides in California. 

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