Sunday, November 7, 2010

El Día De Los Muertos

An incredible day to celebrate, Day of the Dead is one of the most beloved holidays in Guatemala, Mexico, and the Southern US.  It  is celebrated in other countries, but it originated from the state of Michoacan, Mexico.  Specifically, it is celebrated on an island called Janitzio in the middle of a lake....I like to call it the Dead Lake.  It's a burial ground and the native americans of the time, the Purepechas, believed that this place was a gateway to heaven. This post has taken about 3 weeks to put together so I hope you enjoy all the fun.


You may have noticed that I haven't been writing as much as of late due to my job.  I'm a Spanish teacher and during this time of year, things get crazy with this busy holiday.....Day of the Dead.  It's a wonderful time of year when people get together and remember all the ones who have passed in our lives.  Tucson is a wonderful place to live for so many reasons.  As you may or may not know, we have a large hispanic population here and I believe it makes up over half the people here in Pima county.  A lot of Mexican traditions have stayed in the city and have been passed onto others.
Taken in Tlaxcala, Mexico

Notice marigolds

It is traditional on November 2nd and 3rd to go to the cemetary and dress up the tombs with an altar full of flowers.  The marigold is the official flower of the dead.....and one of my favorites from back home:)  In fact, one of my students brought in a live marigold for their altar in class and they were going to leave it there without water.  It's now on my desk about to bloom:).  I want to repeat how special this day is for thousands of people and I will take you step by step showing you the various things you will see around Tucson and in Mexico. On the altar, the deceased person's favorite food and drink is offered so that the spirit may partake in the dinner with the living.

Sugar skulls or calaveras are made to put on the altar with the deceased person's name on it.  Some kids eat them and they are fun to make with your own children.  All you need....merengue powder, sugar, a mold, and a touch of water.  Frosting is also used....add dye and merengue for color in either the sugar or frosting.
Taken in Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico

Paper Mache!!!  What a mess!  But oh so fun:)
Calacas, or skeletons are made in a happy or light mood to celebrate death and not mourn it.  My kids put together several paper mache calacas and have them displayed in our library.

Pan de muertos...or dead bread, comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors.  Generally it is dry with anise in it....good with coffee or for breakfast.  High school kids don't like the flavor so much so I get the sweeter  stuff with very little anise from our local bakery, La Estrella.  Not a crumb is left after the end of each period. PS.  If you are a mother or creative soul, leftover dead bread makes great French toast.  Just saying:)

Our parade.  Every year Tucson, puts on a show that attracts thousands of people to the parade.  It starts at 6 PM and goes until about 8 or 9 PM....and later if you are older:) Again this is a time of celebration as people bring pictures of their loved ones and celebrate their lives.  It is tradition to write their name and a poem dedicated to them on a sheet of paper.  At the very end of the parade, the paper is offered to the heavens and burned at the altar.  People are laughing and dancing and just living life.  During this time, I remember my grandparents who have passed and all those who have lost their lives in the war.  Recently, one of my students just found out her father was killed 2 nights ago in Afghanistan.  Another two friends of mine lost their mothers just recently and I have to say that it has been a year of loss for so many people.  And so people go to this parade to celebrate their life..... they go out and eat dinner in honor of their loved ones....usually at their favorite restaurant or at their graves.   They carry pictures to remember them during their walk.   Their legacy lives within you and for one night, you can reconnect with them along with thousands of other people as you celebrate, dance, sing, eat, and dress up for this very important celebration. Never forget those who have made an impact on your own life.


  1. Hi - I'm not religious but this seems a great way of paying respect to the people who have gone before, and doing so in a positive, celebratory way. Like you, I often think of my parents and friends that have died and I wish there was a way of expressing my love and respect for them in a more upbeat, sharing way. Seems like your town have got it right!
    A really good post! Thanks!

  2. Very cool post...I missed Abq's multitude of smaller EDDLM celebrations and the larger Old Town "celebracion".

    Then I looked out onto my patio, and every large pot had orange marigolds I seeded into them this spring, all growing out of the Hesperaloe plants! How fitting this is the best they have looked all year!

  3. I love it when teachers are engaged and having fun with what they teach!! What lucky students you have!! :0)


Thanks for stopping by!