By Daniel Jimenez for South Kern Sol
El día de los muertos (the day of the dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrated every year during the first days of November. Every year, millions of people from Mexico and Latin America pay tribute to their loved ones who have passed away by celebrating their lives with music, food, drinks, flowers, sugar skulls, and by creating colorful altares. It is believed that during this time, the spirits of the deceased come back to earth and celebrate this day with the living ones.
El día de los muertos traces back before the pre-colonial era when the Mexicas (also known as Aztecs) used to celebrate it to honor their ancestors. Once the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they viewed the celebration as something morbid, and macabre, and even though they tried to get rid of it, they did not succeed. On the contrary, this fascinating celebration is more alive than ever.
Although el día de los muertos is an authentic Mexican celebration, many countries in Central and South America, as well as many cities in the United States join the celebration.
South Kern Sol interviewed local residents to see how they celebrate el día de los muertos today.
“I celebrate el día de los muertos usually at the beginning of the month. I make an altar for my loved ones that have passed away. On November 2, I paint my face or get my face painted like ‘la catrina’. This is symbolic of the day of remembrance for our ancestors who have passed on and decided to come back. It is a day where we aren’t sad about those who aren’t here, but honoring them and welcoming them back for one night.”
–Alejandra Vega, 21
“Occasionally I go to events in Los Angeles. Plazita Olvera has a great cultural night. Personally, once in a while I put candles, and pictures of my parents. I do something private and very simple… very simple yet, very profound. To me the most important thing about our culture is that we do not see death as final goodbye. To us death is a part of life; when we remember our loved ones, they are alive. As long as someone remembers them, they are still alive.”
–Dr. Gonzalo Santos, 64
“El día de los muertos is a tradition that was passed on to me from my mother. I celebrate it by praying for my loved ones who are no longer here. I also make a small altar and light candles in their honor. For the altar, I use religious images and I leave a glass of water overnight so they can come and drink from it.”
–Gema Lopez, 47
“We make our dead’s favorite dish, along with pan de muerto. Also as a whole family, we like to decorate the house with cempazuchitl (marigolds) flowers, papel picado, and other decorations.”
–Francisca Rebollar (right) pictured with her daughter and grand-daughter, 59