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LAist Featured Photo Essay: Searching for the Elusive Sugar Skull

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Photo Essay submitted by: LAist reader Leilani Wertens

According to Leilani Wertens, the 1993 cartoon movie, The Halloween Tree, sparked a lifelong obsession with Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in general and sugar skulls (alfenique or cabezas de azucar). Having grown up in Hawa'ii and Arkansas she did not get the chance to indulge this obsession until visiting Olvera Street during this year's celebration. Shops offered skull-shaped items like paper mache masks, metal and wood puppets, and even glass swizzle sticks. Marigolds, sugar skulls, and offerings of food and water graced the altars that lined the El Pueblo Historical Monument plaza. Prices for sugar skulls ran the gamut: 25 cents for minis under an inch tall to 20 dollars for elaborately decorated supersize skulls. Traditionally the skulls are inscribed with the names of the deceased and eaten by living relatives or acquaintances. Having waited so long for these morbid confections, Wertens bought them in bulk in a variety of sizes. The question now is whether or not to eat them.