Good Morning everyone! I wanted to blog about something that is really important to me but something I didn’t realize wasn’t quite understood by everyone. I want to talk about Dia de Los Muertos. Some of this knowledge is personal but fact-checked with the help of the internet to make sure that I’m not leading anyone astray. I’ve celebrated Dia de Los Muertos with my mother for the past few years and it’s really important to us to take the time to remember our ancestors and honor them during this period. Dia de Los Muertos looks different for each family that celebrates and my mom and I celebrate in our own ways.
So what is the Day of the Dead? At first glance, it seems a little gruesome, like people just run around in skeleton makeup. It’s definitely not that but it’s also not “Mexican Halloween”. Many also now know about Day of the Dead through the Disney movie, Coco. Day of the Dead is a holiday that is celebrated primarily in Mexico but is also celebrated in other places especially where there has been a large Mexican immigrant diaspora. Day of the Dead is a way to celebrate and honor the lives of those who have passed before us and is both solemn and joyous. Dia de Los Muertos typically lasts two days and takes place on the first and second of November. The first day is called Dia de Los Innocentes and is a day for the celebration of children who passed before their time. The second day is for all and can include a grave beautification, creation of an ofrenda with marigolds, food, and photographs, and family celebrations in honor of those who already passed. Dia de Los Muertos also involves specific foods such as pan de muerto which is a large sweet bread flavored with oranges that is meant to resemble bones. Other foods commonly consumed include conchas or pan dulce and any food that was particularly special to any of the dead. So my uncle ron who I honor on my ofrenda loved cookies so I always bake chocolate cookies and put them on the ofrenda.
For me, Dia de Los Muertos looks a little different now that I’m in college. I’m several thousand miles from the graves of any of my relatives but that hasn’t really affected my celebrations. Since I’ve been at university, I’ve put up papel picador which is brightly colored and stenciled flags that I love to look at. I also create an ofrenda with paper marigolds and lots of sweets. On Dia de Los Muertos I try to take extra time in my day to remember and cherish those who have passed away. I also like to make extra time for my existing family and send them a little extra love. The dead that I remember come from those who surrounded me with love as a child or from afar. This year, I remember and honor Ronald, Annabelle, John, Lois, and Lorin.
So what does Dia de Los Muertos look during the age of Covid? Well, quite a bit different. Many people are unable to access the grave sites of their loved ones in Mexico. Obviously, the parties and parades that have marked the days in past years have been forbidden for the good of public health. Even sculptures put out in Mexico City have been removed due to fears of crowding. The Mexican community is unable to celebrate one of the most important holidays and has also been hit extraordinarily hard by Covid-19. Many of the front line workers from hospitals to slaughterhouses to our fields to your grocery store are Latino and have been disproportionately affected by Covid. The year that the Mexican community needs Dia de Los Muertos the most, it is deprived of the collective mourning and community provided by this holiday. I’m lucky that I am able to spend Dia de Los Muertos with one of my loved ones but many aren’t as lucky. If you don’t celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, on November second, please take the time to recognize and thank the front-line workers. I’ll be keeping my ancestors in my prayers and I hope that you are also able to take the time to reflect on the dead who have impacted your life.