Sunday, November 02, 2008

El Día de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a Mexican celebration, is a day to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who have departed. On this day in Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with decorations of papel picado , flowers, candy calaveras (skeletons and skulls), and parades.
It is believed that the spirit of the dead visit their families on October 31 and leave on November 2.

In order to celebrate, the families make altars and place ofrendas (offerings) of food such as pan de muertos baked in shapes of skulls and figures, candles, incense, yellow marigolds known as cempazuchitl (also spelled zempasuchil) and most importantly a photo of the departed soul is placed on the altar.

It might sound somewhat morbid, but the Mexicans react to death with mourning along with happiness and joy. They look at death with the same fear as any other culture, but there is a difference. They reflect their fear by mocking and living alongside death.

Living alongside death means that Mexicans have to learned to accept it within their lives. Death is apparent in everyday life. It is in art and even in children's toys. It is not respected as it is in other cultures. Children play "funeral" with toys that are made to represent coffins and undertakers.

Death is laughed at in its face. Many euphemisms are used for death, La calaca (the skeleton), la pelona ("baldy"), la flaca ("skinny"), and la huesada ("bony"). There are refranes, sayings, and poems that are popular with day of the dead. These sayings are cliches and lose meaning when translated. For example "La muerte es flaca y no puede conmigo" means "Death is skinny/weak and she can't carry me." Calaveras (skulls) are decorated with bright colors with the name of the departed inscribed on the head. Children carrying yellow marigolds enjoy the processions to the cemetery. At the cemetery, music is played and dances are made to honor the spirits.

Death is a celebration in Mexico. Death is among them.


  1. Anonymous6:59 AM

    Death is still hard for all cultures to accept without the thought of an afterlife free of the plagues of the Hell created before people could read and portrayed by famous artists who were on drug trips.

    Those colorful canvases of people alive in Hell, screeching in lakes of fire, while demons danced on naked women took the place of scripture the ordinary folks could not read but they were a powerful tool that is now embedded in our genes and we look upon death as an eternal place of torment suggested by some biblical accounts and interpreted by modern theology.

    The Mexicans seemed to have a grip on death as a way of life as it should be but not as it is since most are scared to death (forgive the pun) of death and want nothing to do with it.

  2. Very good explain, Kate... And Your shots are nice and cute...

    Have a good day !

  3. I love this celebration. I went to one yesterday and it was just beautiful. I learned more from you post.

  4. Very interesting information Kate. I knew just a bit about it myself.
    You were right. My skeleton could have joined your post very easily.
    Love the skeleton of the fancy lady.

  5. Great photos, Kate and the description of the ritual is very educational!

  6. A french humorist used to say:
    "Dead people are lucky...
    They see their family only once a year!!!"

  7. As you might imagine, Dia De Los Muertos is a very big day here in Los Angeles. There were several events all around town. Fascinating.

  8. une belle série sur la fête des morts.

    a beautiful series on the feast of the dead.

  9. Extraordinary collage of "Calacas" and the info you give is perfect, this philosophy about the acceptance of death in your daily life speaks of some kind of wisdom of the indians and actually the celebration is alive and growing. Love your post!

  10. Deaths who seem particularly joyful

  11. I think that basically these celebrations are linked to an old European tradition (at least the choice of the day), but it's very interesting to see how it has developed differently in different countries and cultures! Thanks for this very interesting and complete post!

  12. I like the attitude, but have never liked the art that goes with the Mexican Day of the Dead.

  13. What a beautiful collage, Kate. All the photographs are superb and finally photographs of death that seem somewhat amusing! Death is laughed at in its face, as you say. So interesting to understand this festival. Thanks Kate.

  14. HOpe you saw my festival pics yesterday and tomorrow!


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