Long before any scheming beaded-and-bearded gringos began exploiting Day of the Dead paraphenalia as post-hippie nu-kitsch, the goodly souls at East L.A. institution Self Help Graphics were marking the occasion with the cultural honor and wise-blooded familial and community ties this extraordinary holiday demands. And this year, Self Help's 39th Dia de los Muertos Celebration is certain to be a rich mixture of bittersweet remembrance, contemplative spirituality and celebratory ritual. Commencing with the always extraordinary, costumes-encouraged street procession (starting at 5 p.m. from Mariachi Plaza at First Street and Boyle) and climaxing with the chronically stunning display of memorial altares and a group art exhibition – this year’s theme is Recuerdos Que Nunca Mueren (Memories That Never Die) – the entire affair is intoxicatingly atmospheric, a powerful confluence of visual expression, emotional warmth, otherworldly voltage and raw humanity that makes for an altogether arresting experience. Enhanced further by an additional host of Eastside arts, food and crafts vendors, Self Help’s altogether noble veneration of Di’a de los Muertos ranks as the sweetest and inarguably definitive celebration in all of Southern California. Self Help Graphics & Art, 1300 E. First St., Boyle Heights; Sat., Nov. 3, 5-11 p.m.; free. (323) 881-6444,

Fri., Nov. 2, 5-11 p.m., 2012

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