Throughout the decades, people around the world have created practices and/or created objects in order to help themselves and others to remember certain events or people who they cherish. A very special day to many people of hispanic origin is Dia de los Muertos. During this day, many families gather together to honor and remember those who have passed away and who they will always remember. One of the most important practices carried out through this holiday is the practice of making Altars. Altars have always been a very intricate artwork created through the use of many different objects that symbolize something about those who are being remembered. Altars have allowed people to collectively remember a late person and individually put their heart and soul into remembering then on this day.
The externalization of memory is crucial to oneself and our communities because we never want to forget someone who we loved and cared for. Through altars, many families are able to build a connection and remember these people. Altars are assembled with pictures, sugar, skulls. flowers, candles, food, and basically any other object that you personally feel that helps yourself remember who this person was and why they created an impact in your life. Each and every object included provides a why it helps us remember, or a how it allows us to remember them.
The most important part within an altar is the image of the people/person who you are honoring and remembering. This image is the core of the practice. It allows other to know who we are remembering. Nevertheless, from there on we begin to include decoration and open our minds to being creative.
Flowers have always been a symbol of peace and their vibrant colors encompass the practice. However, although many use different flowers to decorate, roses and marigolds symbolize love and death. They are the most common used flowers within the practice because they have a meaning to their usage.
Many families include food in the altars because they believe that the spirits will be able to absorb the smell and see the food that is being offered to them. These food can range from fruit itself, to sugar skulls, Pan de Muerto which translates into bread of the dead, and actual dishes. These dishes aren’t any typical cultured platter. No, people creating the altar, cook the food that the person being remember loved to eat. This food allows the practicer to remember them because they alway ate this food. Skulls have always been a symbolizations of death. In this case, they do serve as a death symbol however, when created they are decorated in colors and help to create the altars unique artwork.
Because this practice is very cultured, families give their heart and sole into creating the best altar that will help them remember their loved ones. Images of saints are often included because families want their loved one to be safe and in peace where ever they are in their afterlife. This practice has been and will continue to be used throughout the decades because it’s a very easy and heartfelt way to externalize memory. They are able to emotionally. physically, and visibly, invest themselves to help remember them.
One of the best examples I found that relates to my topic is as follows
“As we were working, other families and groups came in to set up their altars in the gallery. Many of the altars were very specific to a person that was to be celebrated. The family next to us had lost a matriarch within the year. Their emotions still fresh, they worked together with pictures and items to create an altar to tell the story of this wonderful woman. Arlene, in her true form, asked questions about their mother and bonded almost instantly with this family and their need to celebrate the memory of someone so dear to them.”
Here were are presented with a real life story behind an altar. Every altar created has a meaning and a person or people behind it. Its a practice and a object but most important it is created for the purpose of remembering.