Autry Museum of the American West

¡Vivan Los Muertos!

The Autry pays homage to the dearly departed at this lively Day of the Dead festival featuring Luis Villanueva, Fr. Greg Boyle, Lalo Alcaraz, Nueva Antequera, Marcus Pollitz, Xocoyote Aztec Dancers, Oaxacan Community of Southern California, and Quetzal.

Saturday, October 30, 2:00–9:00 p.m.
Free with Museum Admission

Los Angeles, CA— The Autry invites the public to celebrate the Day of the Dead—an ancient Aztec ritual to both remember the dead and to mock death itself. This unique Day of the Day observance and celebration welcomes every one to find out more about this extraordinary festival, while enjoying traditional food, family activities, vibrant music and dance, elaborate altar displays, and an interactive community altar. Plus, artist Luis Villanueva will showcase his whimsical catrinas among the altars.

The event begins with three influential figures in the local Los Angeles Latino community. Fr. Greg Boyle of Homeboys Industry will bless the altars and sign his book Tattoos on the Heart. Cartoonista Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the popular La Cucaracha comic strip, will sign his merchandise in the Autry Store. And inside the Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied exhibition, curator and exhibition originator Luis C. Garza will lead a gallery talk. A sacred Aztec blessing of the event by Danza Azteca Xocoyote will open the festivities followed by an extravagant Day of the Dead performance by Nueva Antequera Ballet Folklorico de Oaxaca, presented by Lore Productions. With their elaborate traditional costumes and skull-painted faces, Nueva Antequera dancers and their accompanying live Oaxacan orchestra bring to life the beauty of the celebration.

A spectacular community altar, generously decorated by multimedia, award-winning artist Marcus Pollitz of Fiesta Floats and Raul Cortes of Nueva Antequera, in partnership with Lore Productions, will grace the outdoor plaza where visitors will have a chance to see an image of their dearly departed digitally displayed. The public is invited to submit an electronic image via e-mail to Julia Bensfield at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it prior to the event for inclusion. Photocopies of pictures may also be brought by the public for placement on the community altar.

Inside the museum, artist and event advisor Luis Villanueva will display his marvelous catrinas—four-foot female skeletal sculptures made of recycled and reused materials. His spectacular works feature contemporary and traditional figures from the rocker chick to the folkloric dancer, each set atop elaborate Day of the Dead altars constructed and decorated by Villanueva and members of the Oaxacan Nueva Antequera community. The Mexican state of Oaxaca is known for its thriving Day of the Dead celebrations, and the altaristas, or altar-makers, lend their expertise to this year’s event.

“On this day of personal reflection and celebratory remembrance, I view my catrinas as personal offerings for our beloved souls, with whom we will be joyfully communing as the two worlds of the ancient and the modern meet,” said Villanueva.

The Autry Store will feature an array of Latino art by such artists as George Yepes, Hector Silva, Consuelo Campos, Susana Hernandez, Cynthia Moorhouse, Alex Alferov, Antonio Pelayo, and Lalo Garcia. Hands-on marigold-making activities, face-painting, and sugar skull decorating will be available for all. Traditional Day of the Dead food like tamales, champurrado, and pan de muerto (bread of the dead) will complete the holiday immersion experience.

As the sun sets on the festivities, Danza Azteca Xocoyote will begin a traditional pulsating procession of sound and movement from the outdoor plaza inside the museum and into Heritage Court, where they will bless the altars and display by Villanueva and the Oaxacan community. Following their lead, visitors will be able to join in the procession that leads back outdoors and to the grand finale performance by the famed East L.A. band Quetzal. Their unique blend of culturally influenced sounds will fill the plaza as a storyteller weaves a tale of a young woman’s quest to connect with her departed grandmother. Poetry and a full concert by the band dressed as skeletons will provide the perfect end to the first annual ¡Vivan Los Muertos! festival.

The ¡Vivan Los Muertos! festival is made possible by the generous support of Lore Productions, Villanueva Art, the Oaxacan Nueva Antequra community, and Fiesta Floats.

About Luis Villanueva

Luis Villanueva

Luis Villanueva

Luis Villanueva believes that making beautiful art from recycled materials is a sacred act that honors and preserves Mother Earth. Majestic towering figures made from detergent bottles, toilet paper rolls, soda cans, discarded dresses, and broken Christmas ornaments come to life in the hands of Villanueva. Just as his Madonna sculptures represent the birth of the divine, Villanueva breathes new life into discarded objects and turns them into divine works of art.

At the age of eight, Villanueva was already making large-scale papier-mâché figures for Day of the Dead celebrations. His love of art led him to study at various schools such as the Escuela de Artes Plásticas at the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico. He has also studied with artists in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, Mexico, as well as in Spain and France. In Salamanca he studied with Doña Villanueva, a famous wax artist. Villanueva is the former artistic director of the largest Día de los Muertos celebration in the U.S. at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where he presented and created his own works of art and curated other artists’ works on display. His sculptures have been exhibited at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, the Museo de Arte Latino in Pomona, and, with copresenter Jorge Ramos, at the Librería Martinez in Plaza Mexico, Lynwood.

His latest works consist of two sets of sculptures featuring Madonnas and catrinas (skeletal figures of women). These works express both Villanueva’s feelings and his commitment to the environment, as he continues to make them from recycled materials. Each Madonna and catrina is constructed from old newspapers, used milk cartons, and other materials saved from being sent to landfills. His Madonnas were on display this summer at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ celebrating Mexico’s Bicentennial, and his catrinas were shown at the L.A. County Fair, also celebrating Mexico’s Bicentennial. Villanueva also enjoys giving art workshops to young children and teaching them that what some may consider trash can be given new life and made into works of art.

About Nueva Antequera


Nueva Antequera Ballet Folklorico de Oaxaca, Image courtesy of Lore Productions

The Nueva Antequera Ballet Folklorico was founded on October 2, 1999, in Los Angeles. The original foundational goal was to establish a performance organization dedicated to the diffusion and preservation of traditional music and dance related to various ethnic celebrations within the Oaxacan culture. Over the past ten years Nueva Antequera has grown into a 45-active-members organization. Directors and founders Miriam Lopez and Raul Cortes began dancing at a young age in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their enormous interest and advocacy for carrying their cultural work abroad was realized during a unique cultural exchange program with the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1992. After arriving in the United States, Lopez and Cortes collaborated and directed numerous folkloric groups and cultural organizations in California. Keeping the Oaxacan culture alive has required a significant effort and involvement within the Oaxacan community of Southern California. Oaxaca is a multiethnic culture recognized for its authenticity and dedication to preserving its history, tradition, and cultural heritage. By broadening public involvement with meaningful workshops, community events, and performances, members of Nueva Antequera Ballet not only entertain audiences but also educate and inspire new generations about the dissemination of the Oaxacan culture.

About Marucs Pollitz

Marucs Pollitz has been a multimedia artist for the past 20 years and has been part of the production team at Fiesta Floats for the past 12 years. Pollitz, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University, has been presenting and conceptualizing Rose Parade floats for the past decade. His latest design project will be featured as the City of Duarte–City of Hope 2011 Rose Parade float.

About Danza Azteca Xocoyote


Danza Azteca Xocoyote, photo by Tessie Borden

Founded in 1998, Xocoyote is committed to teaching and presenting the sacred art of Aztec ritualistic performances. Over the past decade Xocoyote has grown to be one of the most celebrated Aztec dance groups in Southern California and beyond. Their committed dedication as a family-oriented dance group has served as the true foundation for their continuous growth and the preservation of this art.

About Quetzal



From the ashes of Los Angeles’s 1992 rebellion/riots arose a collective of East Side musicians committed to respectfully continuing the legacy of over 70 years of Chicano rock. Standing on the shoulders of giants like Lalo Guerrero, Ritchie Valens, Cannibal and the Headhunters, The Brat, Los Lobos, and many others, Quetzal has created a path that has earned them the title of “one of Los Angeles’s most important bands” (L.A. Times). With four albums (Quetzal [Son Del Barrio]; Sing the Real [Vanguard Records]; Worksongs [Vanguard Records]; and Die, Cowboy, Die [Independent], their unique combination of community activism and creative compositions has allowed them to travel the world using music as a tool for creating a global network of musicians committed to building community. Since 2002 Quetzal has been part of facilitating a transnational dialogue, known as “Fandango Sin Fronteras,” between musicians in California and Veracruz, Mexico. Many recordings, performances, and publications have been born from this dialogue. More recently, they spent nine months in Xalapa, Veracruz, composing and recording music with women of “El Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero,” a music movement that spans across the south of the state. This project, titled Entre Mujeres, was released in Fall 2009. Currently, Quetzal is working on its fifth studio album, to be released in Fall 2010.

About the Autry Museum of the American West

The Autry is a museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past to the present to inspire our shared future. The museum presents a wide range of exhibitions and public programs—including lectures, film, theater, festivals, family events, and music—and performs scholarship, research, and educational outreach. The Autry’s collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant in the United States.


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Yadhira De Leon
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Autry National Center
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