Every year in Mexico and beyond, descendants of departed loved ones transform somber memorials into lively altars or ofrendas, replete with colorful marigolds, dazzling candles, and all of the deceased’s favorite earthly indulgences as a way to bring joy to the act of remembrance and successfully propel the dead into the afterlife. In the United States, the holiday is usually known as Día de los Muertos, but in its home of Mexico, it’s Día de Muertos. The “los” comes from a Spanish re-translation of its English meaning, Day of the Dead.
Día de Muertos is a hybridization of Catholicism and indigenous pre-Columbian cultural traditions, with roots dating back to an Aztec festival honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl, which was originally celebrated during the summer. But after Spanish colonization in the 1500s, the holiday was moved up to coincide with October 31 (All Saints’ Eve), November 1 (All Saints’ Day), and November 2 (All Souls’ Day). In the western…
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