Swirls of incense, strands of papel picado, clusters of crafted butterflies: There’s simply no place like Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the Day of the Dead, and this year’s lively celebration was no exception.
Thousands of costumed Angelenos poured into the Hollywood landmark for the annual L.A. Day of the Dead festival, which transforms the cemetery grounds into a marigold-covered, music-and-dance–filled celebration. Personal mementos alongside sugar skulls and calacas dotted the detailed altars and ofrendas to the deceased, while Aztec dancers, face painters, local artisans and bands (including a headlining set from beloved ’90s alt band Café Tacvba) all offered their own personal take on the Mexican holiday.
The event entered its 20th year with a theme that honored sacred migrations and the monarch butterfly. Amid the global anxiety of the last few years, the festival organizers have consistently chosen themes that send a clear message while still feeling like an aesthetically-astounding expression of the community. In this case, a number of altars articulated the “sacred migrations” part of the theme with stories of immigration and hardship as well as depictions of the border wall. But there were plenty of others that celebrated the more literal, peaceful grace and beauty of the monarch butterfly—and the same could be said of the many attendees draped in flowing, winged capes.
Unlike recent years, which found the event competing with other Halloween weekend events, the 2019 edition occurred on Día de los Muertos, and, anecdotally, felt far more crowded—especially judging by the blocks-long lines to enter ahead of each time slot. But once inside, the tightly-packed throngs rarely seemed to hamper most attendees’ enjoyment.
Check out our photos below of beautiful altars and elaborately adorned outfits to see why L.A. Day of the Dead continues to be one of our favorite events.