I’m Latino. I’m Mexican. In fact, I’m a descendent of the indigenous people of Michoacán. But I didn’t know anything about Día de los Muertos.
Growing up, my family never talked about or celebrated Mexican holidays or customs. I mean, I thought my middle name, Luis (loo-EEs), was pronounced like Lewis (loo-ihs). If I didn’t even know how to say my middle name correctly, I had no shot of knowing about Día de los Muertos.
Now that I have a daughter, I want to be able to teach her about our family history and culture. To do so, I had to spend quality time researching Día de los Muertos, and I wanted to boil it down to properly communicate to her its history and relevance today.
So, here’s what I got:
- The holiday’s origin is traced to the indigenous people of Mexico, and it’s meant to honor the goddess Mictēcacihuātl, a ruler of the afterlife.
- The holiday is three days long (October 31 – November 2).
- The holiday originally took place in early summer until Spain’s colonization in the 1500’s.
- A significant tradition is for each family to create an altar for each deceased family member, which can include favorite foods, traditional Mexican marigolds, and decorative sugar skulls.
- When the Spanish were colonizing Mexico there was a significant effort to erase the indigenous people’s religion, but when proven unsuccessful the Spanish settled for mixing in Catholic beliefs and traditions.
- There are a variety of celebrations for the holiday around the world, but the celebrations in the southwest of the United States remain the most traditional due to the large amounts of Mexican immigrants.
- In recent years there have been depictions of the holiday in worldwide television and film, including The Book of Life, Spectre, an episode of Elena of Avalor, and, coming this Thanksgiving, Coco.