From Oct. 1 to Nov. 2 in Mexico, people are putting out food in cemeteries—not for them to eat, but for their loved ones who have passed away. It is part of the celebration for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Jessie Mancilla, director of Latino Affairs at Minnesota State University, Mankato, explained the tradition of putting out food for the dead: “It’s usually their favorite dish or their favorite meal, because you want to remember the good times you had with them. So, you’re remembering the life they shared with you and wishing them well in the afterlife.”
While primarily celebrated in Mexico, the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in parts of Latin America and in southwestern areas of the United States.
Ibelizet Dominguez, president of the Chicano/Latin American Student Association, said it is difficult to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Minnesota. She has never truly celebrated it while living here.
“It’s a little bit harder to celebrate it in the U.S. because our loved ones are not buried here,” she said. “In Mexico, I know my family celebrates it. They go to the cemetery and they decorate the whole thing with flowers, they bring food, drinks. In a small town, because my family is from a small town in Mexico, everyone in town is at the cemetery and they pray to their loved ones.”
People also put up altars in their homes for their loved ones, which include photographs, flowers and food.
On Nov. 1, the memories of children who have died are celebrated, which includes children who died before they were born. Adults who have died are remembered on Nov. 2.
Dominguez explained the religious aspect of the holiday: “It’s mostly just Catholics who celebrate it; Protestants and Mormons in Mexico do not. Even though it seems more cultural, like it’s something that people in Mexico do, it is something religious as well so there are certain religions in Mexico who do not.”
The Day of the Dead originated from Aztec and indigenous traditions, but it became mingled with European traditions and religion after colonization.
Celebrating the Day of the Dead gives people a different way of looking at death and life.
“The way we look at death and life, I think, in America it’s seen as something negative, like someone died, it’s something really sad,” Dominguez said. “In Mexico and Latin American countries, it’s the celebration of their life. Yes, they did pass away, but it’s who they were and how much we love them that matters the most.”
If you want to learn more about Dia de los Muertos, there is an event hosted by Latino Affairs on Friday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. in the CSU. Eduardo Gutierrez, who practices the Day of the Dead every year, will give a presentation at the event.