By Jordi Ettinger
The opening scene from the most recent James Bond film “Spectre,” which takes place in Mexico City, conjures up grandiose images of one of Mexico’s most popular and well known holidays, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Much closer to home, Dia de los Muertos celebrations were in full swing on Nov. 1 and 2 at La Placita Olvera, better known as Olvera Street, the root of Los Angeles’ cultural diversity.
In honor of the Day of the Dead, Olvera Street was bathed in color for the occasion from the orange and yellow marigolds (called cempazuchitl in the Aztec language Nahuatl) to the festive calacas (skeletons) and faces painted with the distinctive skull motif.
Additionally the main plaza at Olvera Street was strung with brightly colored papel picado, rectangular pieces of tissue paper intricately cut with different designs. Altars, containing ofrendas (offerings) to the deceased consisting of photos, candles, flowers and messages from family members, were displayed by locals to honor their dearly departed loved ones.
However, Olvera Street is still a very vibrant place to visit even when there are no special festivities such as Día de los Muertos. One of the main attractions at Olvera Street is its authentic Mexican cuisine. Several restaurants including La Luz del Dia and Las Anitas and the taquito stand Cielito Lindo have been serving up traditional Mexican food such as enchiladas and tamales for generations.
In addition, the nearby churro restaurant Mr. Churro serves up this delicious dessert either plain or filled with a choice of chocolate, caramel, etc. Mr. Churro is also well known for its Mexican style buñuelos, a thin flatbread coated in sugar and cinnamon, and aguas frescas.
The stores at Olvera Street sell all sorts of commodities from loteria (Mexican bingo) to tiny statues of Jesus, t-shirts, leatherwork, paintings and even photos with a model mule. The plethora of authentic Mexican commodities may offer something for you to embrace as part as the cultural immersion.
Whether celebrating Día de los Muertos or not, Olvera Street is a great place to discover the history of Los Angeles and its rich Mexican culture.