Dia de los Muertos is one of Mexico’s most beautiful traditions. On November 1st and 2nd we celebrate and honor the dead with festivals and celebrations throughout Mexico and here in the United States as well. Dia de los Muertos is popular throughout Latin America, but it is most popular amongst Mexicans, since the holiday originated in ancient Mexico.
This tradition combines customs of the Aztecs, who practiced rituals honoring the dead, with Catholicism, which was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores.
It was widely believed that the dead would be offended by mourning and sadness, so instead they were celebrated with festivals, music, their favorite food, drinks, and parties. Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of the lives of the dead, not death. That is why drinks, food, and objects that the deceased enjoyed are placed on the ofrenda to lure them back to Earth for one night and enjoy their time here by being around their family and doing things they loved to do when they were alive.
In Mexican tradition, death comes in three stages.
The first death is physical, which is when our hearts stop beating and our organs stop functioning.
The second death is symbolic. We usually plan a viewing and funeral for the person that has died and we pray for them and say our last goodbyes. The second “death” is when the bodies are lowered into your resting place.
The last and final death happens when the deceased is forgotten by all those who are still alive. We all witnessed this in the movie Coco when Hector yearned to be remembered as he was growing weaker in the afterlife because Mama Coco (the last person alive to remember him) was forgetting him.
Dia de los Muertos serves not only to honor their lives, but to keep them “alive” and remembered for as long as possible. Generations can be kept alive with this tradition, even by those who never met the dead.
This year at Charro Azteca we created an altar for our grandparents who passed, and I get to teach my nieces and nephew about their great grandparents and about these traditions that hopefully one day they pass down to their 3rd generation children.