THE L.A. ZOO AND PLAZA DE LA RAZA CO-CREATE ‘BELOVED PETS OFRENDA’ IN HONOR OF NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

Ofrenda display at the Los Angeles Zoo
Photo by Jamie Pham

Zoo Guests Are Invited to Honor Pets That Have Passed Away at the Ofrenda with Photos or Drawings starting Oct. 8, 2022.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Los Angeles Zoo and Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education have partnered to celebrate the tradition of co-creating a special Beloved Pets Ofrenda in observance of Día de los Muertos. For its second year, the Beloved Pets Ofrenda is designed to honor the memory of cherished animal companions that have passed away, and all Zoo guests are welcome to come and print or draw photos of their pets and place their images and mementos on the ofrenda, located at the Zoo’s Front Entry Plaza starting Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022 through Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

“We are thrilled to partner with our friends at Plaza de la Raza for a second year to give Angelenos the space to love and remember their pets,” said Denise M. Verret, CEO & zoo director, Los Angeles Zoo. “The Zoo feels that National Hispanic Heritage Month is a critically important moment to highlight the culture and art of our Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx communities. By co-creating this ofrenda with an institution like Plaza de la Raza, the guests will have the unique opportunity to not only express their empathy for all living things, but also learn more about the rich and deep culture of Hispanic heritage – a culture closely tied to the history of Los Angeles.”

An ofrenda, which means “offering” in Spanish, is an altar created to honor loved ones who have passed away. These ceremonial displays are a colorful mix of symbols, pictures, flowers, memorabilia, food, beverages, and other meaningful items, and all are an essential part of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, which Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx cultures observe on Nov. 1 and 2. Community partnerships with organizations like Plaza de la Raza create amazing opportunities to recognize, honor, and celebrate the rich diversity of our City. It is vital to both the Zoo and Plaza de la Raza to respect the Hispanic heritage and traditions of Los Angeles.

“It is an honor for Plaza de la Raza to collaborate with the L.A. Zoo every year to spread culture and share stories, and we thank our friends, the furried and others,” said Maria Jimenez Torres, executive director, Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education. “For nearly all of our 52-year history, Plaza de la Raza has hosted a Day of the Dead event, based on the Mexican celebration which honors life by welcoming the dead and embracing death as a part of life. It is a time to honor, remember and salute our loved ones. In any family who loves their pets, animals are a part of the family and our lives, so an altar to remember them with more joy than sorrow, at least at this time of the year and in this way, is fitting and healing. Viva Vida (life)! Viva Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)!”

On Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, resident folklorist artist America Madrigal-Herrera led a team of Plaza de la Raza parents and students in co-creating the altar at the L.A. Zoo along with Zoo Manager of Community Programs Coral Barreiro and Zoo Learning & Engagement staff. The Beloved Pets Ofrenda is a special way to celebrate both Hispanic heritage as well as honor the connection between humans and animals. A common connection that many share is the love and dedication that goes into caring for an animal. That dedication to the wellbeing of pets is also translated to the Zoo’s dedication to the wellbeing of the animals entrusted to the L.A. Zoo’s care. The ofrenda allows us all to reflect on our relationships with animals and reminds us of their importance in our lives and environment, even those that have passed on.

Zoo Learning & Engagement staff will be on-site to help co-create the ofrenda with guests every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Sea Life Cliffs. While Learning & Engagement staff will not be at the ofrenda on weekdays, the ofrenda will be open and accessible to all guests who wish to display photos of their beloved pet; guests will need to bring their own print-out or drawing during weekday operations. The ofrenda will be up and on display through the end of Día de los Muertos on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

Author: Carl Myers