Customers and vendors of the Mercadito del Este de LA indicate that since the movie Coco, the Day of the Dead tradition returned strongly

Until recently, those who did not know the true tradition of the Day of the Dead had misconceptions of its meaning. Some thought it was about celebrating death, black magic, witchcraft or strange rituals.

It was not until the movie Coco, which premiered in 2017, that an invitation was made to learn more about how to honor the lives of our loved ones after death.

Coco, winner of two Oscars in 2018, showed in a colorful and pleasant way that the Day of the Dead itself is a celebration of life and not a moment of sadness.

Therefore, it is common to see food, drink and favorite items of deceased loved ones on the altars so they can enjoy them during this holiday.

For a few days, in traditional places – like the East Los Angeles Market – people arrive at all hours of the day to buy the decorations and items that they will use on their altars on the Day of the Dead.

Martha Padilla, one of the sellers of these items, agreed that thanks to the movie Coco more people started buying the items for their offerings now that they already know the true meaning.

The altars carry skulls, water, candles, cempasuchil flowers and other elements. / photos: Aurelia Ventura.

"I think this tradition was not dead but it was (was) abandoned … After the movie Coco everything rose again," said the woman, who has sold for four years in the "Mercadito", as she knows this traditional place of This angel.

Padilla said he likes to see young children buying items for their offerings. “I like that the tradition grows and that one as a father is the one who teaches this to the little ones,” he said.

Follow the customs

Usually, an altar of the Day of the Dead carries the photo of the deceased and his favorite foods; in addition to flowers, water, copal (aromatic resin), candles and confetti, among other things.

And although in some homes it is customary to put real food, others opt for plastic and handmade figurines to avoid incidents.

Raúl Atayde, one of the buyers who tried to choose the best items for his altar, said that it is vital for him to share with his children of 8, 6, 4 and 3 the same tradition that he enjoyed so much at those ages.

"I want them to see that this is part of our history, our ancestors … I want them to learn more," he said and agreed that for his children, the movie Coco also sparked more interest in them.

Buyers choose the items for their altars in the East Los Angeles Market. / photo: Aurelia Ventura.

Atayde said he remembered that when he was a child he went with his parents to visit Jalisco, Mexico and there he saw how his family celebrated the tradition.

"For me it was one of the best visits in October and November because we were going to the cemetery to visit relatives," he said. "Now at home we put a small altar."

Another buyer, Magali Virgin accepted that for a long time she did not know what the celebration was about.

Even – as he confesses – he thought it was something related to a not very pleasant religion.

But now that she has more knowledge, she is the one who offers to buy the skull masks that her children will use.

“Every year we go to a place where it celebrates this tradition,” said the woman while choosing her articles.

The best image, at the worst time

Blanca Araceli, actress and founder of the Tierra Blanca Arts Center, stressed the importance that Coco had at a crucial time for Mexicans in the United States.

"It fell in 2017 when the president (Trump) had just made his negative comments (towards the Mexicans) and it was like hitting him with a white glove to demonstrate our beautiful tradition," said Araceli, who gave voice to the character of Emcee, the presenter of the talent show in the film.

“It's a very well made movie, without clichés. It changed the perspective of many, ”he added.

Blanca Araceli brought the character Emcee to life in the two Oscars winning film, Coco. (Supplied)

Araceli said that so much was the good reaction of the public that even in their arts center, mothers who in the past did not want to let their children go to dance during the Day of the Dead celebrations are now the first to sign up .

"People got that misunderstanding that it was a celebration of death or witchcraft," he explained.

However, Coco's message has been so positive that Araceli says that even other ethnic groups, such as Americans, Italians, Japanese and Koreans, have adopted the celebration.

He stressed that the tradition, although pleasant, is real and asked us not to forget the "choquereros spirits".

"As sometimes when we leave and we do not find the keys of the house or the car … It is when we say that there is a bizarre (walking) spirit in the house and makes us pranks," said Araceli.

"That is why it is good to give them a little mess with their sweet potato or food and they are already happy."

Buyers choose the items for their altars in the ‘Mercadito’. / photo: Aurelia Ventura.

Celebration events

Starting this weekend, several free celebrations will be held to celebrate our deceased loved ones.

In the Olcita Placita starting on October 26 to November 2 a procession and novena will take place every night from 7 p.m. There will be Aztec dancers, presentation of the dance of death, altars on display and sweet bread and free champurrado.

Downtown Los Angeles will be held in downtown Los Angeles from October 26 to November 3 where more than 35 altars will be exhibited at the Grand Park and the Music Center Plaza. Each day they will have performances by local artists and community groups.

And in the Plaza Mexico of Lynwood on November 2 and 3 the celebration of the day of the dead will take place with a festival that begins at noon.

There will be contest of altars, music, craft exhibition, prizes, the reading of the book Coco by Blanca Araceli and the presentation of the film "Cuilli & Macuilli".


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