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Celebrating Dia de Los Muertos

Graphic Illustration by Iridian Casarez

By | Charlotte Rutigliano

As a little girl in México, MultiCultural Center Liaison Joselin Dorado would celebrate Día de Los Muertos by contributing to her school’s altar, and on Nov. 2, she would go on processions to the cemeteries with her mother or other family members to visit their late ancestors’ graves, take them flowers and spend time “eating with them.”

Día de Los Muertos is a colorful celebration that dates back over 3,000 years, that is celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Día de Los Muertos, which translates to Day of the Dead, is a celebration of friends and family members who have passed away.

According to Dorado, the “altares,” or “altars,” are one of the most traditional ways to honor late loved ones.

“The altars include pictures of loved ones and Flores de cempasúchil (the Mexican marigold),” Dorado said. “The flowers are believed to attract their spirits because of their aroma.”

Dorado said that altars might also include the favorite food or drink of the people being honored. If a child is being honored, the altar might have their toys. Candles are also placed on altars to help the spirits of loved ones find their way back to the light.

Psychology major Carolina Gonzalez-Estolano said she is fortunate that she has never lost a family member or close loved one, but she still celebrates Día de Los Muertos.

“Growing up, we would always go to events at cemeteries,” Gonzalez-Estolano said, “or we would go to family homes for dinner and celebrate the lives of loved ones.”

According to Dorado, Día de Los Muertos has become more commercialized over the years, and traditional celebrations differ from town to town. It’s celebrated mostly in rural areas by the indigenous peoples of Mexico, while in the United States, Chican@s or the Latinx communities view the day as a take-back or connection to their roots.

“Día de Los Muertos can have a deep significance,” Dorado said, “but it’s a tradition that gets lost in big cities (specifically talking about Mexico).”

According to Gonzalez-Estolano Día de Los Muertos are often confused, though they are different holidays celebrated in different ways.

“Nowadays, Halloween is associated with dressing up, scary things, candy, and trick or treating,” Gonzalez-Estolano said, “Día de Los Muertos is about remembering your loved one, appreciating them and the people they were.”

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