Celebrating El Día de los Muertos at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Dia de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Illustration by Brandon Maldonado)
Vamp Jenn at the Dia de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Vamp Jenn at the Día de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Since 2000, Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles has been home to the largest Día de los Muertos celebration outside of Mexico, and I attended for the first time this year. For 2022, the festivities centered on Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of fertility and the agave plant. There were separate daytime and nighttime events happening, and I went to the latter, Noche de los Muertos. It was an evening filled with beautiful performances, rituals, altars, and so much more.

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that combines spiritual practices of the Nahua tribes and Catholic religious beliefs. It takes place on November 1st to honor the souls of children and the 2nd to remember the souls of adults. The natives’ traditions of commemorating the dead and death date back thousands of years, and when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico during the 16th century, these mixed with European customs. In efforts to cover up the celebration’s indigenous roots, the Catholic Church decided to create All Saints Day and All Souls Day on the same dates. However, the Mexican people have managed to balance ancient Nahua practices with Catholic beliefs to make El Día de los Muertos the special occasion it is today.    

  • Noche de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever
  • Day of the Dead statues
  • Day of the Dead statues
  • Day of the Dead statues
  • Day of the Dead statues
  • Day of the Dead statues
  • Day of the Dead statues

It was quite a night for me because I was also asked to do an Instagram takeover for the media site HipLatina to share highlights of the event with their audience. As soon as I approached the front gates of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I was greeted by a stunning arch made of colorful marigolds and other decorative elements. The event was flooded with the living on the other side. As soon as I entered, I was immediately overwhelmed with all there was to absorb.

Many people had their faces painted like La Catrina, including myself. I went for a half living, half skeletal look, and it felt so uplifting and powerful to have my countenance painted in such a way. I must mention that I can’t take credit for my makeup; I was fortunate enough to have an artist do it for the occasion. It was fascinating to observe how elaborate certain individuals were dressed and made up. Every year, there’s a costume contest, so I’m sure some were competing for the winning title. One person whose work I admire and had the opportunity to meet was Loretta Vampz. The actress and model donned a stunning gown and headpiece, and her La Catrina makeup looked phenomenal.  Some of you may recall she was featured in The Sixth Chamber’s music video for “Red Death Masquerade,” which I reviewed a few months ago.

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is large and sprawled across 62 acres, so you can imagine there were many attractions spread throughout the grounds. The ofrenda (altar) is a central part of the Day of the Dead where families set up and decorate their altars with the photos of deceased loved ones, flowers, and food and drink items. The event features a huge exhibition of altars, and anyone is welcome to participate. It was apparent that those who chose to create an ofrenda to display spent many hours assembling them. There were avenues upon avenues filled with colorful, ornate set ups commemorating the memory of so many souls. Besides families, non-profit groups and organizations were also among those who joined in. One altar paid tribute to the matriarchs of families, and I stopped to write the name of my maternal grandmother on a paper boat and set it free upon the “river.”

  • Avenue of Day of the Dead altars
  • Maria Sabina Altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar
  • Day of the Dead altar

There were art exhibits featuring the work of Mexican artists, such as Sabino Guisu. One of the exhibitions was held inside the beautiful ABC Mausoleum. There were also Aztec dance performances; live music on the main stage from musicians like Ed Maverick, Hermanos Gutiérrez and DJ Que Madre; plus culinary vendors serving up all kinds of authentic Mexican dishes, mezcal tastings and other delicacies.

  • Aztec traditional dance
  • Aztec traditional dance
  • Ed Maverick performing during the Noche de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever
  • ABC Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever
  • ABC Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever

Before I wrap up, I want to talk a bit about the daytime experience. I didn’t attend that one, but it typically happens from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are more activities geared toward children, different performers and other types of entertainment. The altars and artwork are still on display. The nighttime festivities took place from 5 p.m. to midnight, and each event requires separate tickets, which range from $35 to $50.

Vamp Jenn standing at a Day of the Dead altar
Vamp Jenn standing at a Day of the Dead altar

I can’t describe how much pride I felt taking part in a celebration that’s an integral part of my ancestry. I really want to make attending the Día del los Muertos event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery an annual tradition. It’s such a special gathering of people coming together from all walks of life for the single purpose of honoring the souls who’ve gone before us. I’ll hold that night forever in my heart.

(Illustrations in the top image are by Mexican artist Brandon Maldonado.)

Where to Stalk

Dia de los Muertos

Hollywood Forever

11 thoughts on “Celebrating El Día de los Muertos at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

  1. That is extremely interesting. A Mexican friend whom I am taking French lessons with explained about Día del los Muertos to me last Thursday, so it was not entirely new to me. The photos are amazing. One day I would like to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very cool and interesting article Jenn, thank you for sharing and being a part of your heritage, I can imagine how awesome it must have felt to attend. I think the makeups are amazing too. I would love to attend for sure, one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gloriously colorful, Jenn, both your evocative descriptions, as well as the vast number of photos you snapped. Its ostensible theming and title notwithstanding, Dia de los Muertos seems as much a celebration of life and of the living as anything. Perpetuating the legacy of those who made the journey before us.

    By the bye, this celebration in particular owes its success to the exquisite love and attention to detail tens of thousands have lavished upon it. You can tell that, for many, this is a year-long passion.

    Including for you, my friend. Stunning results.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for the compliments! I didn’t realize I took so many pictures, so editing took a bit of time, but I just had to capture in images, as well as words, as much as I could for people who haven’t had a chance to attend themselves. It feels good to share the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s