El Dia de Los Muertos is a way of remembering people that have past away and celebrating their lives. Dia de Los Muertos originated from the Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs, however it has spread to many parts of the U.S (Borreli).This tradition helps people cope with the death of loved ones by acknowledging that they are dead but that their souls can come back to visit.
A big part of this celebration are the altars also called ofrendas in Spanish. These altars are usually made by family members who wish to remember and honor their loved ones. The ofrendas can have almost anything on them but they usually contain pictures, flowers, and food.
An important component of the Altars are photographs. The person making the altar can put up pictures of their deceased family members and friends as a way to show love and respect. These pictures facilitate the externalization of memory because they often enable conversations. When someone asks who the person in the picture is memories will resurface and stories will be told about the person. Every picture has a story behind it and with El Dia de los Muertos these stories can be shared with new generations, who will hopefully continue the tradition.
These altars are also decorated with beautiful flowers called zempazuchitl, which can either be orange, yellow, or a mixture of both. They have become known as Day of the Dead flowers since they are always used during this celebration. The aroma of the flowers are very strong which is why they are used as a guide.“Petals are strewn forming a path to the front door to guide the souls home, especially if the living are far away from the burial place of the deceased and cannot go to the grave” this quote from Ramon Sanchez article explains how the souls of the dead come visit the altars that their families have made for them. Flowers are usually used in funerals and are placed on tombs, however with El Dia de los Muertos they can be placed inside the home, making this type of conmemoration more private.
Food is also placed on the Altars as a way of welcoming the souls.Their favorite foods and drinks are placed on the altar so that they can eat it.By making the favorite food of the deceased, memories resurface of when the person was alive. It doesn’t matter if these memories are painful,with El Dia de los Muertos they are turned into something positive. Something special about el Dia de los Muertos is that family members get to connect with the person that past away even if it just for a little while (UNC Institute). Through the use of food and objects El Dia de Los Muertos celebrates life and death at the same time.
El Dia de Los Muertos allows people to use their memories to create their loved one’s altars. The things that the person loved the most are carefully selected and showcased in the altars. We all remember things differently but through the use of Altars our memories are combined into one single practice. The components of the Altars all work together to facilitate the externalization of our memories in a fun and creative way.