Los Dias de Los Muertos



Dead Can Dance

馃榾 Happy Day of the Dead 馃榾

Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is a unique festival that is the result of 16th century contact between Mesoamerica and Europe. Conceptually, it is a hybrid, owing its origins to both prehispanic Aztec philosophy and religion and medieval European ritual practice. Ceremonies held during the Aztec summer month of Miccailhuitontli were mainly focused on the celebration of the dead. These were held under the supernatural direction of the goddess Mictecacihuatl. (1) Both children and dead ancestors were remembered and celebrated. It was also during this month that the Aztecs commemorated fallen warriors. According to Diego Duran, a 16th century Spanish priest, the Aztecs would bring offerings of food to altars in honor of the dead. They would also place small clay images that were supposed to represent the deceased on these same altars. (2)

When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they brought the Christian Holiday of All Soul’s Day with them. This was a Roman Catholic holy day commemorating the dead in general as well as baptized Christians who were believed to be in purgatory. Spanish priests were quick to see a correlation between the Aztec and Christian celebrations so moved the Aztec festival from summer to fall so that it coincided with All Souls芒 day. This was done in the hopes that the Aztec holiday, which the Spaniards considered to be pagan, would be transformed into an acceptable Christian holiday.

The result of this cultural blending is an event where modern Mexicanos celebrate their ancestors during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. While this modern festival has Christian components, it still maintains its indigenous Native American ones.

Across Mexico, activities associated with Day of the Dead are fairly consistent from place to place. On the first day, families visit the graves of their relatives. During this time, they decorate the gravesite with flowers, earth, and candles. The also hold a kind of picnic at the graveside where they interact socially among themselves and with other families and community members who are all gathered at the cemetery. The stories that are exchanged by the families often feature other people who are also buried in the same cemetery. In this way, Day of the Dead acts as a method of social cohesion between different groups of people. Folks gathered around the graves are there not only to celebrate their ancestors, but to celebrate the role that those ancestors played in a larger community.

The meals prepared for these picnics include tamales and pan de muerto (a special bread in the shape of a person). Many people believe that it is good luck to be the one who bites into the plastic toy skeleton hidden by the baker in each rounded loaf. Sweets are also included in the feast. These include, cookies, chocolate and sugar skulls. Friends and family members exchange gifts consisting of sugar skeletons or other items with a death related iconography. Often times, a gift is more prized if the skull or skeleton has one’s own name written on it with icing. As in the case of pan de muerto, when the celebrant takes a bite out of the skull, the person symbolically “takes a bite of death” and thereby, inoculates themselves against the fear of death.

Decoration is not restricted to gravesites. Often times people set up home altars dedicated to the same relatives. These are profusely decorated with flowers (primarily yellow and orange marigolds and/or crysanthemums). These were called cempoa-xochitl and are a clear holdover from Pre-Columbian times. For the Aztecs, the color yellow referenced the autumn鈥攁 season when nature begins to die. The arc or arco that forms a semi-halo atop the altar is symbolic of the path taken across the heavens by the dead. As in the case of the gravesides, home altars are also adorned with religious amulets and food offerings. The foods chosen are generally those that the deceased enjoyed during his life. This can run the gamut to different kinds of fruit, to cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages. Mescal is a favorite. All in all, the altar represents a recognition of the cycle of life and death that is part of human existence. There is some slight variation in how Day of the Dead is observed in Mexico. For instance, its celebration in large cities, like Oaxaca, leans more toward the secular than the sacred. Also, foodstuffs and altar construction are, logically enough, dependant upon the natural resources of the area. Nonetheless, what seems to be maintained throughout is the remembrance of the dead and the celebration of the continuity of life and the community.

(1) This deity’s name means “Lady of the Dead.” She was the female counterpart of Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld.
(2) See, Diego Duran, Book of the Gods and Rites and The Ancient Calendar. Translated and edited by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press [1971].

Article with cool hyperlinks

I have been to the聽 San Francisco鈥檚 Day of the Dead with my baby sister.


Pristine Cartera-Turkus

Uno Mas



Hola amigos! S贸lo un d铆a de los Muertos y Los Angeles viaje actualizaci贸n.

Hello Friends! Just a day of the Dead and Los Angeles trip update.

I have has such a wonderful time and experience visiting my home, Los Angeles, and seeing all my friends. Wow, it has just been so awesome in every way. I have been doing soul retrieval, left and right. Meaning when near locations that have a meaning to me, which are many….. I take a deep inhale of all myself in the memory or place, breath it in to reclaim any errant soul fragments. I then keep the positive and send the negative out to the angels to be cleansed and put back into the universe. I did this at Christmas time before I left Louisiana to move to Arizona. My sister and I drove around our hometown and did the same process.

I did leave exactly 3 years ago from California on Halloween day 2010. So is it a coincidence, no. I did book the trip, but I was just thinking for my birthday, which was Wednesday. Anyway all that aside, it has been so wonderful seeing all my friends. God I just forgot how nice it was to be surrounded by friends.

I am pretty darn tired though. I have been to lunch and dinner every day since Monday. I saw everyone I could. Staying with my amazing and beautiful best friend.

Last night we performed some scary Halloween theater while disbursing candy. I was a witch, and obviously inspired by the season, because I just looked normal but acted the part, and scared the poop out of some children. We and their parents were laughing so hard. My friend and her boyfriend and his friend, so much fun. Pamella was an insane mental patient that thought she was a doctor. I was a very convincing witch and I would follow them a block down the street and really freak them out, then hide behind a tree. So funny!

Today a friend gave me a hundred dollar bill for my birthday, I tried to give it back but she said no. My other friend bought me a vegan Thai food lunch, I had Thai iced tea, been craving that. The whole week has been like that. So blessed!

I also wanted to mention the art, I don’t know who did this but I will find out. There is an entire art genre around this holiday that I have always loved. It is a celebration.

Sindy & Pamella

Me & Pamella
My bestest friend forever!

This picture is my favorite gift.

Pamella D’Pella

Peace and So much love.



Dia De Muertos


En los talones de los fantasmas y duendes de Halloween viene el D铆a de Muertos, o el D铆a de los Muertos, una celebraci贸n estrechamente asociado con M茅xico. “Celebraci贸n? Muertos? “, le pregunta. S铆. De hecho, hay confort que pueda encontrarse en esta conmemoraci贸n, que Azteca tiene ra铆ces que se han mezclado con religi贸n tradicional. En vez de miedo y temor, en esta celebraci贸n.

Los Angeles Times

D铆a del gato muerto Serenata
Sandra Silberzweig

El D铆a de los Muertos

Day of the Dead

More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.
It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate.

A ritual known today as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

The ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States, including the Valley.

Celebrations are held each year in Mesa, Chandler, Guadalupe and at Arizona State University. Although the ritual has since been merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles of the Aztec ritual, such as the use of skulls.

Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual.

The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth.

The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the monthlong ritual.

Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.

“The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic,” said Christina Gonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. “They didn’t separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Western cultures.”

However, the Spaniards considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. They perceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan.

In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill the ritual.

But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die.

To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.

Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The goddess, known as “Lady of the Dead,” was believed to have died at birth, Andrade said.

Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States and Central America.

“It’s celebrated different depending on where you go,” Gonzalez said.

In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones.

In Guadalupe, the ritual is celebrated much like it is in rural Mexico.

“Here the people spend the day in the cemetery,” said Esther Cota, the parish secretary at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “The graves are decorated real pretty by the people.”

In Mesa, the ritual has evolved to include other cultures, said Zarco Guerrero, a Mesa artist.

“Last year, we had Native Americans and African-Americans doing their own dances,” he said. “They all want the opportunity to honor their dead.”

In the United States and in Mexico’s larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar.

“We honor them by transforming the room into an altar,” Guerrero said. “We offer incense, flowers. We play their favorite music, make their favorite food.”

At Guerrero’s house, the altar is not only dedicated to friends and family members who have died, but to others as well.

“We pay homage to the Mexicans killed in auto accidents while being smuggled across the border,” he said. “And more recently, we’ve been honoring the memories of those killed in Columbine.”


Art by:

Bonnie Reid