All of the bewitching nature of Halloween is sharply contrasted by Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Here in the Los Angeles area, such proximity to Mexico and a large Mexican population means a festive celebration remembering the dead and including them in daily life. Generally, families go to the cemetery to clean up the graves of relatives and decorate them with marigolds, the traditional flowers of the dead. November 1 is usually reserved to honor the memory of dead children, and November 2 is for adults.
Day of the Dead is all about celebrating, and to celebrate with loved ones, food always helps. Sugar sculptures of calaveras ("skulls") and skeletons ("alfenique" in Spanish), abound. Jose Guadalupe Posadaís drawings of calaveras, seen year round, are often associated with Dia de Los Muertos. Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) with decorations of skulls and bones on it is a treat, and you may also get to chomp on some huesos, or bone cookies. Yum.
Where to go? Throughout East LA and Santa Ana for starters. To observe any Hispanic cemetery in the area is bound to be a feast for the senses. If youíre combining brazen tourism with culture, try Olivera Street, directly across the street from Union Station. The official birthplace of Los Angeles, itís rather touristy, in the way Tijuana is not representative of all of Mexico. It does still hold the title of having the first house in Los Angeles- the Avila House. There are several gift shops (leather, Mexican puppets, candles, decorative items), restaurants (La Golondrina is tasty), and on weekends thereís often Aztec dances as well as roving mariachi musicians.
Another option is visiting LAís cemeteries as many are the final resting places of the stars. They may not be your relatives, but you can still leave a flower on their graves.
Westwood Memorial Park
Marilyn Monroe: You would think that her grave site would be a monument to all that is blond and curvy in Hollywood, but it is far from it. Westwood Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Avenue) is right off of Wilshire Blvd. Itís a strange part of town for a cemetery, almost hidden by skyscrapers and parking lots. Here you'll find a simple crypt with her name. Located in the Corridor of Memories #24, itís easy to spot as it's usually smeared with lipstick kisses from adoring fans. Armand Hammer, Natalie Wood, and Walter Matthau are buried here as well.
Rudolph Valentino: Buried in 1926, this legend can be found at Hollywood Forever (formerly known as Hollywood Memorial Park until it was purchased and restored by new owners in 1997) at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Gower Street in Hollywood. Itís literally right behind Paramount Studios, and throughout the cemetery you have a view of the Hollywood sign that seems to hold a vigil over her dead. You can leave a red rose in the bronze urns beside Valentinoís crypt, No. 1205 in the exquisite Cathedral Mausoleum, just like the mystical Lady in Black who comes to mourn him every year on August 23. If you come in August 23, you may be lucky enough to catch a showing of one of his films at the cemetery. As you may have surmised, this cemetery is very user friendly and there are kiosks throughout to help you search for info on your favorite dearly departed. Many screen stars are here, including Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Sylvester and countless others (The inscription on his tomb reads "Thatís all folks").