Bright orange marigolds, colorful papel picado and papier-mâché calaveras shimmered along the southern edge of Clarence St. Saturday night as the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) hosted its seventh annual Calavera LGBTQ Festival in Boyle Heights.
The intersectional festival’s theme this year revolved around “Semillas de Amor” (Seeds of Love) as a way of highlighting the history of queerness within many different indigenous communities – with a special focus on Oaxaca, Mexico.
This emphasis was intentional, said LEA Executive Director Eddie Martínez, given the recent City Council controversy involving a recorded conversation that included derogatory remarks about Los Angeles’ Oaxacan community.
“We are all about social equity and protecting the most vulnerable communities from harmful actions and language,” said Martínez. “We have to take a stance against those who engage in hateful behavior, even when it’s our own gente.”
That’s why LEA rejected the sponsorship of City Councilmember Kevin de León for the festival, a decision supported by Assembly Member Miguel Santiago at the celebration. “It takes a lot to do the right thing and stand up against injustice when it’s your own people,” said Santiago that night. “I applaud Eddie and LEA for taking that step.”
Even without the sponsorship, the festival went on to be its biggest yet with around 400 attendees throughout the night. The celebration began with a blessing of the ofrenda altar at Mi Centro led by Aztec group Coatlicue Tonantzin, who filled the air with sounds of dance and drums. That was followed by a musical performance by mariachi-style singer and LEA Community Organizer Angel Elizalde. Additional highlights of the evening included a communal salsa dance session led by the group Queer Latin Dance LA, and an Mx. Calavera Drag Competition.
“You can feel the love, the passion and the intergenerational wisdom all coming together when you honor and celebrate culture in community,” said Alina Carmona, an attendee at the event. “It’s really beautiful seeing so many people out here tonight honoring and remembering the people we’ve lost while also celebrating the life and connections we all share.”
Attendees were able to enjoy tacos, tortas, quesadillas and pan de muerto complimented by horchata, cafe de olla and alcoholic beverages throughout the night. A myriad of booths were also open to guests featuring local organizations offering resources, calavera face painting and vendors selling cultural clothing and accessories.
All proceeds from the event will benefit LEA programs that provide safe spaces, promote youth development and increase family acceptance within the community.