Dia De Los Muertos

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”

-Terry Pratchett

Cultures across the globe venerate their dead with elaborate festivals. Many fall immediately on or after Samhain, though it differs between hemispheres.

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Photo Credit: Last Podcast on the Left

Living in the US, I struggle to find any merit in our holidays. (WASP)Americans are without any real tradition to honour ancestors and I am continuously dismayed by the lack of openness regarding grief or speaking of death.

So naturally I’m fascinated by cultures with soulful traditions, particularly those that venerate their dead, and I am compulsively interested in what they eat at these festivities. #deathpositivity

My song pick for this one is Oingo Boingo “Dead Man’s Party”

The National Hispanic Cultural Center produced this overview of Dia de los Muertos and remembrance rituals among the multi-cultural and polyethnic continents of the Americas based on archaeological discoveries and oral/written traditions:

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
This well-known celebration takes place from 1-2 November in Mexico and increasingly worldwide. Altars composed of photos, flowers, candles, personal possessions, and gifts pop with blue, orange, and purple.

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Photo shared from Mexico Desconocido

You will find these altars in family homes, burial sites, in public places, and religious centers. As part of the festival, attendees design elaborate costumes and paint their faces.

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Credit: NatGeo

Preparing for Dia de los Muertos is time consuming. Sugar skulls and skull-themed food and decorations are also painstakingly baked and displayed for the big event.

I have made a few skull cakes for fun (below):

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Pan de Muerto and other sweets reserved for these days and Calacas skeletons are displayed all around.

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Credit: Mexico in my Kitchen

Families will often visit and clean the graves of their beloved before and after the main events. Offerings of bread and flowers, typically marigolds, are also given to honour the lost loved ones and to guide them through the afterlife.

Here is a touching short film I found:

Mexico City hosts a grand parade each year, which you can get a feel for in the opening of scene of Spectre:

Variations of Dia de los Muertos can be found all over Central and South America. In Guatemala, the people fly massive kites and consume a special dish called fiambre that is reserved for this day.

Fiambre is a type of salad that is made from the favourite foods of loved ones who have passed, so each one varies. Saveur, Growing Up Bilingual, and Spandango each have some great example recipes in the respective links.

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Fiambre. Credit: Chocolate and Chiles

In Ecuador, the indigenous Kichwa people have their own designated recipes that they make for Day of Deceased (Dia de los Difuntos) on 2 November.

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Credit: Laylita

Loja bread filled with guava and sugar, and a spiced pineapple-blackberry pudding called colada morada are among favourites. Here is a simplified version of colada morada, but Youtube has a great video recipe for the real deal:

https://youtu.be/WaY99POopTs

 
Dia de los Muertos is just one of many holiday celebrations in Latin/Hispanic cultures that venerates the ancestral dead. Check out my blog Bolivia’s Día de las Ñatitas to learn about more.
 
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