Updated: Dec 16, 2021
October is my most favorite time of the year because it marks the beginning of my preparations for the Mexican holiday, Día de Muertos, which takes place Nov 1 - Nov 2.
Below is an insert from Grace Sesma who runs the FB page Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico, in regards to Dia de Muertos to help us gain a better understanding.
“While we are happy to share our beautiful ritual, it is important that Día de Muertos be treated with respect, reverence, lightness of spirit, and an understanding that Día de Muertos is not Halloween, but a sacred remembering and a sacred witnessing of the joys and sorrows of our ancestors, and a celebration of the strength of spirit of we, their descendants, to preserve the soul of this pre-European contact tradition. As a result of the Spanish invasion, forced conversion to Christianity (Catholicism in particular), and ongoing colonization of what today is known as Mexico, Día de Muertos now takes place on November 1 and 2, having merged with the Catholic All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Typically November 1 is to honor children and infants, known as Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Holy Innocents) and also as Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). November 2nd honors adults and is known as Día de Muertos and as Día de los Fieles Difuntos, Day of the Faithful Dead. Indigenous peoples in Mexico (and in other countries in what is now the Americas where Indigenous people’s traditional territory extends beyond contemporary borders, such as our Maya relatives) have been holding these celebrations for 3,000 years. In 2003 UNESCO proclaimed Mexico’s Día de Muertos Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”
-Grace Sesma - Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico
As an indigenous Mexicana, I did not grow up celebrating this holiday but when my “Mami,” my maternal grandmother, passed away I felt drawn to start my very first ofrenda (altar) to show my love for her and celebrate her life. This started 17 years ago as a decorated shoe box with her picture taped inside. Today, my ofrenda has over 50 pictures from family and friends who have requested I include their loved ones that have passed, in my ofrenda. I also have two separate, smaller ofrendas for the children and fur babies.
My children have grown up honoring our loved ones with our yearly ofrenda, face painting, and annual fiesta. Unfortunately this year due to COVID-19, we will not be celebrating with friends as in previous years but it is still important for us to keep this practice alive in our home.
Many people through the years have reached out and asked me about this celebration and I love to share this part of my culture with anyone willing to listen. Indigenous people look at death more as a transition than with finality and Día de Muertos is an extension of this belief. We celebrate our loved ones and believe that during this time they come to our ofrenda and partake in the goodies we leave them and know that they are not forgotten. With Disney’s Coco and the growing popularity of sugar skulls and face painting, it is important for those of us that are descendants of the original practitioners of this celebration to keep Día de Muertos differentiated from Halloween and the understanding that our culture is not a costume.
Every culture and spiritual practice has their own unique way of acknowledging the passing of loved ones and celebrating the lasting impact their lives have had on ours. I encourage families to talk about the ways their own culture(s) have celebrated this life transition and to carry on the traditions that may have been forgotten or lost in translation through colonization or migration. Itʻs a wonderful gift to pass on to our children and all the generations after us.