Boyle Heights honors Dia de los Muertos with lively celebrations

Dia de los Muertos at Self Help Graphics/Lucy Guanuna

By Lucy Guanuna

Riding the Gold Line in Dia de los Muertos fashion/Lucy Guanuna

While many Angelenos spent Saturday returning  Halloween costumes and tossing out rotting pumpkins, Boyle Heights was bustling with a pair of  Dia de Los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead,  celebrations that filled the streets and Gold Line rail cars with costumed visitors.

Boyle Heights’  wine bar Eastside Luv and the nonprofit visual arts center Self Help Graphics & Art held separate family-friendly, Dia de Los Muertos events within half-a-mile of each other on First Street. People, young and old, hit the streets and Metro stations donning ornate garb and face paint resembling skulls. Many used the Metro Gold Line to shuttle between both events, which were accessible from the Mariachi Plaza and Pico/Aliso stops. Vendors painting faces and selling crafts, food and art were present at both events.

Self Help Graphics & Art  held their 40th annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration on Saturday.  SHG, which moved to Boyle Heights after being founded  in East L.A. in 1973, is known to have held the first Dia de Los Muertos celebration in Los Angeles.

The day-long event, which attracts more than 5,000 visitors each year, began in the afternoon with  traditional processions  that started at Grand Avenue Park in downtown and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Both processions converged at SHG’s compound on First Street.

Two stages held performances by local artists including Grammy award winning Quetzal and Thee Paramounts, a band made up of students from Pio Pico Middle School. Art exhibition, Raiz y Rama, showcased the art of more than 12 artists celebrating the “complexity, depth and understanding that artists now posses about Dia de Los Muertos”.

Meanwhile, a half-mile east on First Street at Mariachi Plaza, Eastside Luv’s 8th annual Dia De Los Dead celebration was said to be their biggest yet. The event, which lasted from noon to midnight,  was held at  Mariachi Plaza and a stretch of First Street, which was closed between Boyle Avenue and Bailey Street, for one of  two beer gardens and outdoor dance floor.

Boyle Heights artist Robert Vargas  pulled people from the crowd to paint and draw free hand. Artist El Dedo exhibited “Muertofication”, with pieces that “muertofied” iconic figures, dead and alive. The two stages featured local and international acts,  including up and coming East L.A. crooner Irene Diaz, the Latin Grammy-nominated Trio Ellas, and Mexico City’s Mexican Institute of Sound. DJ sets kept the crowd dancing in between performers.

Scenes From Dia De Los Dead at Mariachi Plaza |  Photos by Lucy Guanuna

Dressed up at Mariachi Plaza Gold Line Station

Scenes from Self Help Graphics Dia del los Muertos celebration | Photos by Lucy Guanuna

Lucy Guanuna, a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.


  1. Thanks so much for posting Self Help Graphics’ event! It was phenomenal!

  2. Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara

    The teen rock band, Thee Paramounts are not with the Pio Pico HS band. They are with Arts 4 City Youth, a free music program that I founded in 1993, and based in Boyle Heights.

    The band consists of:
    Robert Abalos/Songwriter/Vocalist/Lead Guitar, Esteban Torres High School;
    Eddy Rodriguez/Bass/Songwriter, Montebello HS grad;
    David Abalos/Rhythm Guitar, Esteban Torres HS grad;
    Ian Rosales/Drums, Eagle Rock HS.

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