Calavera LGBTQ Festival at Mi Centro. All photos by Olivia Teforlak

On Oct. 12, the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) hosted its 3rd annual “Calavera LGBTQ Festival,” to remember victims of gun violence, transphobia, and homophobia.  The cultural celebration at Mi Centro LGBTQ Community Center presented a “Día de los Muertos” experience in memory of LGBTQ residents of Boyle Heights who have passed away. 

The celebration began with the blessing of the ofrenda –the marigold flowers, candles, incense, pan de muertos, and pictures of people’s loved ones– on an altar, inviting the deceased loved ones to come and visit their families and friends. LEA staff called for a moment of silence,  followed by an ancient Aztec prayer. The organization stressed that Dia de los Muertos is a sacred Mexican tradition that will not be whitewashed.  “If the culture dies the people die,” a staffer said.

The event brought together two important identities: Mexican-American and queer. Boyle Heights resident Ismael Castro, 23, said that while the community is usually seen as a safe space for brown identities, that’s not always the case for queer people. 

“With Mi Centro, both of our identities are accepted,” said Castro.

Mariachi Arcoiris, which bills itself as the world’s first LGBTQ Mariachi band, performed at the fundraising event. As people danced and listened to the beautiful music under the papel picado, the smell of tacos and elotes filled the air. Besides the food, the crowd enjoyed drinks, face painting, and artwork made by queer Latinx.

The festival was sponsored by Delta/Aeromexico, Walmart, Bank of America, and USC Keck School of Medicine.

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