Danté Vincent Photography

Celebrating Día de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Location: Los Angeles

The dead are alive

I have to admit – I was generally aware of the Día de Los Muertos ceremony, but didn’t fully comprehend its historical, cultural and religious significance. Ever since the James Bond movie Spectre, I’ve been interested to learn more and I’ve been daydreaming of witnessing the festival first-hand in Mexico. The movie’s opening scene, from the way the camera masterfully tracked Bond through the festival with a four-minute-long take, has caught my imagination and curiosity ever since. It has also prompted me to gain a greater understanding of this tradition and seek out some easier to attend local festivals.

While I don’t have the means to travel to Mexico to witness this celebration first-hand, Los Angeles thankfully offers several venues that celebrate this incredible tradition. My favorite – the one that takes place at the Hollywood Forever cemetery – just so happens to be the first I attended when I first moved to Los Angeles in 2018. The Hollywood Forever cemetery offers a unique venue that seeks to provide the most authentic experience in which the tradition can be genuinely observed and celebrated. 

The festival originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec and other Nahua people. Unlike other religions, they considered mourning of the dead disrespectful and viewed death as a natural step in life’s continuum. They believed the dead were still members of the community and kept their loved ones alive in memory and in spirit. During Día de Los Muertos, the dead temporarily return to earth and the festival celebrates love and respect for deceased family members, and allows the living to make offerings to their lost loved ones. 

Perhaps what I love most about the ceremony is that its a social holiday that not only brings Mexicans from all religious and ethic backgrounds to celebrate – but has become increasingly popular by other cultures, too. People of all ages and cultures have their faces artfully painted to resemble skulls, while some don fancy suits and gowns to mimic the calavera. The festival at its essence, is a celebration of life and death. 

All photos taken were taken my Sony A7RIII and 70-200mm GM lens.

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