October festivities in L.A. are about tradition, culture, and costumes, but recently, these celebrations have also become safe spaces for minority communities and aim to raise awareness about social issues.
Thousands of Los Angelenos attend celebrations throughout the city to ring in the spooky season each year. Of these events, two of the most popular are the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood.
The Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery celebrates Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday commemorating loved ones who’ve passed away with altars, dances, food, and music. This year, the theme of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration is the Monarch Butterfly, which is meant to commemorate the plight of Latinx immigrants.
"[The Monarch Butterfly] is a symbol for Dreamers and immigrants’ personal journey echoing the migration that the butterflies make between Mexico and the U.S” Elizabeth Lopez, a production manager for the event, commented.
This event is also meant to pay homage to immigrants and Dreamers in LA specifically, who account for 35% of the county’s population, making them a crucial part of the community.
“The event itself is not trying to make a political comment," said Lopez, "but this event is meant to serve the immigrant and Latino communities, so we definitely want to create a safe space for those communities”.
Additionally, this year’s theme of the monarch butterfly raises awareness about environmental concerns in Mexico, as Lopez also notes "the event has teamed up with EcoLife, an environmental conservation organization, to protect the Monarch butterfly biosphere in Michoacán, Mexico.”
This collaboration with EchoLife nods to the threats Michoacán’s monarch butterfly biosphere faces in light of deforestation and unorganized tourism in Mexico.
Similarly, West Hollywood’s Halloween Carnaval, in addition to being a celebration of music and elaborate costumes, is a platform employed by the LGBT community in LA to vocalize support for LGBT rights. According to Los Angeles native Noah Lee, who has attended the annual Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood for the past five years, the Carnaval has become increasingly political.
“I have always viewed the Carnaval as a safe place for gender expression for LGBT people like me,” commented Lee, “but in recent years I think it is becoming a lot more political, you see a lot of people making fun of [President] Trump with absurd Trump costumes for example.”
Such costumes may be a response to the Trump administration endorsing a flurry of anti-LGBT policies.
Both the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Dia De Los Muertos Festival and the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval attract huge crowds, with the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Festival being the largest Dia de Los Muertos celebration in North America, and the West Hollywood parade attracting approximately half a million attendees this year.
With such huge crowds gathering to celebrate as well as support the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities, two of the largest minority groups in LA, both events carry an undeniable sentimental value to the city.
The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval will take place from 6-11 p.m. on Oct. 31st on the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in between Doheney Drive and La Cienega Boulevard. The 20th annual Dia de Los Muertos Festival will take place from 12 p.m. on Nov. 2nd to 12 a.m. on Nov. 3rd at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.