One of my favorite childhood memories may sound a bit morbid to some but very normal to others. I loved the time of the year when Tota would take me to the cemetery to spend the day at my great grandmother Mamita’s grave. November 1st in El Salvador, like in many other Latin American countries, is a celebration and a day of remembrance. For me, this was an excuse to get out of the house with Tota, eat and play! We cleaned the grave, decorated with colorful flowers and socialize with others who were doing the same. I got to eat comida del mercado, elotes locos (corn on the cob with all kinds of crazy yummy stuff) and run wild in the cemetery. Tota loved to walk from grave to grave to see the colorful decorations, photos and talk to other families. I really enjoyed listening to them speak about their loved ones. Some even shared their food with us. It was a picnic at the cemetery!!! It was fun! It was okay. It wasn’t morbid or scary. It was supposed to be a happy time. It was a celebration amongst families, friends and even strangers. This is how I remember el Dia de Los Muertos in El Salvador- a day to celebrate.
I love the way Frances Ann Day summarizes the tradition on her book “Latina and Latino Voices in Literature”,
“On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos [little angels] (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.”
My baby shower’s theme last year was El Dia de los Muertos and it was pretty awesome. I wanted to do something different, non-traditional and meaningful. El Dia de los muertos for me is a celebration of life. It is a celebration of those who are no longer with us, their spirit, legacy and our own life. I wanted my baby shower to be a celebration of the life in my womb. I wanted to celebrate Gael coming into this world, and changing my life!
I was reminded about this earlier this week when I attended the Houston Symphony’s preview of La Triste Historia- a multimedia concert and film that celebrates this tradition. The beautifully produced animated film is the tragic and dreamlike tale of two young lovers set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, which culminates in the celebration of the Day of the Dead. The details at the reception highlighted the care and commitment by the Symphony to get it right.
As soon I walked into the room I noticed the flores the muerto or Cempasuchil which are traditionally used during Day of the Dead celebrations. I really appreciated this. I’m also impressed with the talent making this this production a reality. Juan Trigos is a renowned Mexican composer; director Ben Young Mason and executive producer Duncan Copp have paired an original orchestral work with a fantastical animated film.
The preview of La Triste Historía captured me not only for it’s beauty but also for the message behind it. I truly believe the spirit never dies and this is what El Dia de los Muertos is about- remembering those spirits and keeping them alive. It is about honoring our past and celebrating the future. Our bodies may leave this earth but I truly believe our spirit remains. Our spirit lives on in the hearts of those lives we touched, and difference we made.
If you are interested, the world premiere of La Triste Historia is this Friday with shows Saturday and Sunday. This would be a great way to introduce and/or teach the kiddos about this tradition. And just in case you need resources, click here for some great books that will help you introduce this important part of our heritage.
I’m curious, what does el Dia de Los Muertos mean to you? Do you have any childhood memories of the celebration?
I’m participating in a Día de los Muertos Blog Hop with Houston Latinas. Check out the other bloggers participating in the blog hop below:
More blog posts about Día de los Muertos, from Houston Latina Bloggers: