"First Time Around" by Joe Saenz

Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican holiday that has now become widespread, especially in the Greater Los Angeles area. There are multiple events in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles this weekend.  

What is not pleasing, however, and considered disrespectful by Mexican historians and folklorists, is the vast commercialization and merging of Halloween together with Dia de los Muertos.

Trader Joe’s is decorated with calaveras (Dia de los Muertos skulls) with the words “Boo” coming out of the skull’s mouth, and local Target stores have packages of “Happy Halloween” banners  for sale with traditional Dia de los Muertos Mexican artwork decorating them.

With Halloween on Friday, Oct. 31, and Dia de los Muertos — which is also All Saints and All Souls Day — on Nov. 1 and 2, there is now cross-pollination of the two holidays.

“They are completely different cultural and religious holidays with very different meanings, and shouldn’t be mixed or lumped together,” said sacred artist Lalo Garcia.

“To have Dia de los Muertos iconology with the words “boo” is exactly the opposite of our cultural holiday. Death is not to be feared, it is a time that we honor and celebrate our loved ones who have passed, and laugh and enjoy our families. It is the opposite to try to scare someone,” he said.

Garcia, along with other Northeast San Fernando Valley artists including Rick Ortega, Jesus Molina and Salvador Rodriguez, will be participating in a event on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Calvery Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Blvd.,in East Los Angeles. It is sponsored by the L.A. Catholic Archdioses.

For this event, Garcia and other artists have painted new works. One of Garcia’s pieces painted on a tall palm leaf, he has titled “Catrina.” Rodriguez has painted “Ofrenda A Mama Celia” with the “traditional offerings” for the holiday, including marigolds, ollas  (pottery) and pan de muerto (bread of the dead).  Ortega has created whimsical paper mache “Catrina” figures painted with Mica.

In addition, there are several other Dia de los Muertos events in the San Fernando Valley, including one held on Halloween, Oct. 31 at CSUN’s Chicano House, 1118 Nordhoff St., in Northridge, and on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the City of San Fernando’s Recreation Park, 208 Park Ave., San Fernando.

The 14th Annual Dia de los Muertos event will also be held in Canoga Park.