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In Pandemic, Self Help Graphics’ Día de los Muertos Celebration Builds New Relationships

Día de los Muertos banderitas| Pablo Aguilar
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For more than 40 years, the community arts center Self Help Graphics & Art in Boyle Heights has hosted a large-scale Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration on the first weekend of November. That won’t change this year but what will change will be how the celebration will be experienced and celebrated due to COVID-19.

Learn more about Día de Los Muertos / Day of the Dead on "Artbound." Watch now.
Día de Los Muertos / Day of the Dead - Media Manager

This year’s 47th Annual Día de los Muertos celebration will move the altar exhibit, titled “Ofrendas 2020,” which you can view on the SHG website; workshops and final day celebration to a mostly virtual space. The many altars standing inside the community space will still be on display but only online. The workshops hosted throughout October were available via video streaming as opposed to on-site at the center. The final day celebration on November 1st, which previously has included an on-foot procession that begins at Mariachi Plaza and ends at the Self Help Graphics building, will still occur but will be replaced with a car caravan that will start at the East L.A. Civic Center, 1 p.m.

“We're actually installing a couple of altars outside in the parking lot,” explains Betty Avila, the center’s Executive Director. “So even though people can’t come into the building, they can see the exhibition online, but if you're walking by, you'll still get to see an installation, or our fence will actually have an installation as well.”

Avila and the center’s board of directors began preparing early this summer to convert the center’s annual Día de los Muertos festivities from a live, interactive space to a virtual, but still somewhat interactive, space, which came with a new set of challenges.

“I think we knew in June, we understood that if things didn't change for the Department of Public Health that we'd have just move forward with that assumption,” explains Avila. “I assumed that we would be able to save some money because our season does not include closing the street and having the whole festival. It turns out production and editing is really expensive, so that's also new terrain for us.”

Click left and right to see some images of the celebration last year:

Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019. Two players in calaveras bowing.  | Pablo Aguilar
Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019. Two players in calaveras bowing.  | Pablo Aguilar
1/7 Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019. Two players in calaveras bowing. | Pablo Aguilar
Aztec dancer during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
Aztec dancer during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
2/7 Aztec dancer during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar
Aztec dancers during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
Aztec dancers during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
3/7 Aztec dancers during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar
A young woman in calaveras paint smiles during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
A young woman in calaveras paint smiles during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
4/7 A young woman in calaveras paint smiles during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar
A band plays on stage during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
A band plays on stage during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
5/7 A band plays on stage during the Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar
A young girl gets her face painted Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
A young girl gets her face painted Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
6/7 A young girl gets her face painted Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar
A workshop during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
A workshop during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019  | Pablo Aguilar
7/7 A workshop during Día de los Muertos celebration in 2019 | Pablo Aguilar

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