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Photo Essay: Novenario at Olvera Street

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Olvera Street's Novenario has all of the pageantry and all of the colorful calaveras characters as similar Dia de los Muertos events, but there is something more. Something sacred. The rituals honoring the dead combine Catholic and indigenous blessings, bringing a solemnity to the occasion. The traditional pre-Columbian Novenaria (nine-night) procession is a traditional ceremony to remember deceased loved ones. It is a moving experience, even more poignant this year because the merchants lost two of their own. As participants lift pots of burning copal incense to the sky, we all remember someone, and even those who do not pray send a silent message to those we have lost.

The ceremonies take place at the beginning, middle and end of the procession. Offerings of incense are made, along with a cleansing sprinkling of water and showers of marigold petals. A conch shell is blown to mark specific points in the ceremony. Even the traditional ceremonial dancing is emotionally intense. Lest things become too serious, the calaveras characters are there to lighten the mood and remind us that this is a celebration. At the end of the ceremony, participants form a line to embrace as a gesture of harmony.


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(Photographs taken by Elise Thompson for LAist)

The Olvera Street Merchants present: Novenario
Continuing through Thursday, November 2nd, 7 - 9p
Kiosko, Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, 125 Paseo de la Plaza, LA, CA
Following each procession, free pan de muerto (sweet bread) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) will be served. Mexican Cultural Institute, in partnership with Olvera Street Merchants Association and El Pueblo Historical Monument present musical performances immediately after the Novenario at Placita de Dolores, Olvera Street

(NOTE: Please do not take photographs during the sacred ceremonies. Photographing the procession is fine, although it is best to wait until the solemn participants leading the procession have passed. The Calaveras are happy to ham it up for the cameras, so feel free to snap away).