California’s Budget has finally been balanced. Our financial house is in order. There has been a lot of cutting and tax raising in the process. In the meantime, there have been costs. Some things have to be pushed aside. Some things that used to get funding, don’t anymore.
Which brings us to the Dia de los Muertos festivities at the El Pueblo del Los Angeles and Olvera Street. All of the sudden, the Olvera Street Merchants Association needed money to put on a proper party, with no idea how to raise it.
When the youngest of the Merchants suggested a little thing called Kickstarter.
The board members of the Olvera Street Merchants Assn. stared at Edgar Pasten, a bit bewildered, when he suggested they use a website called Kickstarter to raise money for their Dia de los Muertos festivities.
In past years, the city had guaranteed the association $50,000 to support multiple cultural events at the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” But with new competition for city funds, the merchants needed to find another way to put on the Day of the Dead celebration.
Pasten, whose wife is a fifth-generation Olvera Street business owner, suggested the group try the website that enables people to donate to campaigns they find worthy.
But most in the room that day — Pasten, at 33, was among the youngest — couldn’t understand why anyone would just give them money.
Their reluctance was an illustration, said Pasten’s wife, Christina Mariscal-Pasten, of the generational divide that has been growing among the merchants as computers and technology have become staples of everyday life.
On Olvera Street, a romanticized version of old Mexico remains frozen in time. Traditional garments line the walls of shops and kiosks, wooden toys and trinkets like those that generations of Mexican children have played with are on display.
“If two or three people [at the meeting] had heard of Kickstarter, that would be a lot,” said 58-year-old Michael Mariscal, Pasten’s father-in-law. “We’re not that kind of people.”
The merchants were not sold on the fundraising platform, but found themselves in a difficult position.
The city was planning to allow corporations and other merchant groups to bid on sponsoring the event. The Olvera Street Merchants Assn. could apply for city funding, but if a commercial sponsor outbid them, Pasten said, the merchants feared they would commercialize Dia de los Muertos — much as they had done with other cultural events, such as Cinco de Mayo.
The Dia de los Muertos festivities, in which families honor deceased relatives, is a spiritual celebration. It includes Aztec rituals and processions that stem from the Catholic tradition.
With no other funding opportunities on the horizon, the merchants decided to give Kickstarter a try, setting a goal of $10,000.
They eventually rose $12,000 in 45 days, funding the whole event. To read how it all worked out, click here.