I didn’t realize it until I heard Lalo Alcaraz say it himself. I sat down in the dreary KPFK waiting room and listened quietly while I waited for my turn to come up on The Pocho Hour of Power, “Day of the Dead is the new Christmas, it comes earlier every year.”
He was damn right.
Three weeks before the actual Dia De Los Muertos holiday (November 2), the lovely Eastside rockabilly metropolis of Uptown Whittier held their festivities. From 11 AM to 5 PM, they blocked off Greanleaf Ave, one of Uptowns most busiest streets. It was an effort of Yolanda Garcia of Casita Del Pueblo, “a community store that hopes to provide a welcoming environment and an interesting collection of items that reflect a positive image of Latino culture” according to their website. The event was free to the public. I liked that the site also reinforced the merry connotation of the traditional Mexican holiday as being “a day of joyous remembrance, not sadness.”
I was made aware of this specific muertos event on Lalo’s show too. He was going to be there himself selling and signing some of his original prints. And on Sunday morning, I decided to get my lazy Sunday ass up and go check it out. By some miraculous muerto baby Jesus miracle, even my dear mother, father and little sister decided to come along. So, for the first time since last Christmas actually, the Cabral’s had a lovely day out on the town–as a family.
Sure enough, the event was maaaaad cracking with the humble locals, a mix of rockabilly families and the evolved Chicano bourgeoisie. I sometimes take for granted how awesome it is to live on the east side of Los Angeles. The event held live rockabilly performances, peaceful low riders and there were lots of motorcycles parked on the road. The block must had been sprawling with over fifty artisan booths and four hundred face-painted heads, at least.
The were altars were beautiful. The traditional mediums that the faithful use to express their gratitude and love towards their loved ones who have passed on were filled with everything you can imagine. I saw one stacked high with Conchitas and toasted peanut-butter sandwiches that were cut in half perfectly, the creamy peanut butter Speleothem still shimmering between the spaced pieces of bread. I saw another one that was built on the bed of a classic custom jet-black truck and had a single unopened tall boy of PBR next to a framed portrait of La Patrona herself, the Virgin Mary.
Amidst the blissful ghoulishness of it all, my family and I got the monstrous munchies and decided to hit up one of the local food booths to see what was up.
Red Oak BBQ was recommended to me by Lalo himself, he’s a local so whatever he says to eat, I will. The place has been open in Uptown Whittier and for a few years and specialize in Santa Maria style BBQ, a style known to BBQ trekkies for their notorious dry rubs and the gossamery use of a non-sweet BBQ sauce. They smoke all of their meats using only natural red oak wood which I found to be way lighter in smoke flavor than any smoke I’ve tasted before. For $9 you got an obscenely large smoked limb, a tiny amount of stewed Pintito beans and an even tinier scoop of dry potato salad. But the point here was the meat, smoked medium rare, mine was still juicy while my sister’s had charred a bit. I love struggling physically to eat my food so this was a winner for me, I think I got it from my mom.
The delicious L-tryptophan laced meat hit us hard and we left shortly after. Sucks too because the home grown East L.A. band favorite, Upground, started playing right after we took off.
I’ll be back next year, I think I actually liked it better than the one they hold every year in East L.A. actually.
Wanna jump on the Dia de Los Muertos celebratory death bandwagon? Here are a few other celebrations happening around town during the next couple of weeks!
If you have any more muerto events, feel free to add to the list on my comment board.
The 12th annual “Dia de Los Muertos” at Hollywood Forever Cemetary
6000 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
October 22, 2011
General Admission: $10 per person, children 6 years & under free
(please bring exact change)
Dia de los Muertos at Olvera Street
Los Angeles St. at Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
10/25/2009 – 11/2/2009
Festival de La Muerte at the Historic Santa Fe Hospital (Linda Vista)
610 S. St. Louis St.
Saturday Oct. 29, 2011 11 AM to 12 AM
Sunday Oct. 30, 2011 11 AM to 6 PM
Bands: Quinto Sol, Calle Placer, Guerilla Queenz + more
La Muerte Vive
Wednesday, Nov 2 3:00p
at Million Dollar Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
307 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Gregorio Luke Day of the Dead
Wednesday, Nov 2
8:30p to 9:30p
East Los Angeles Civic Center
4801 E. Third St.
Los Angeles, CA 90022
DAY OF THE DEAD 2011 in Boyle Heights 38th Annual Día de Los Muertos Celebration: Revival 2011
Self Help Graphics
New Location at
1300 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033
November 2, 2011
5 -11 PM