Dia de los Muertos: Where Does it Come From?

Ok so this is a festivity I wasn’t familiar with until I moved to Houston. Ok yes I do have Latino Heritage but not all Latin American countries celebrate the day of the dead. In fact, I have never celebrated the day of the dead. Yes, I am familiar with Halloween – very familiar as I like to take it back to its Celtic origins and not stick to the commercialized and Americanized version of the day. But lets leave Halloween for another post and concentrate on el Dia de los Muertos.

El Dia de los Muertos is mostly celebrated in Mexico and other central America countries. It does not extend to South America. It is a festivity that does not focus on creating feelings of fear toward death; it concentrates on celebrating those who have departed. El Dia de los Muertos is not meant to be a sad day, on the contrary. It is meant to be a day to remember, honour and celebrate those close friends and families that aren’t with us any longer.


Parties, drinks, festivals, foods and many other customs are associated to the Day of the Dead. The way in which the festivity is celebrated vary with region, but one of the most common customs is the making of elaborate altars to welcome departed spirits home. Vigils are held, and families often go to cemeteries to fix up the graves of their departed relatives. Festivities also frequently include traditional foods such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), calabaza en tacha (sweet pumpkin) and atole (a heavy sweet drink, served hot)

Photo by Alejandro Montoya
Photo by Alejandro Montoya

El Dia de los Muertos has its origins in Pre-Colonial Central America, Mexico to be more precise (before the conquistadors arrived) During the time of the Aztecs, a month long summer celebration was overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, (pronounced ‘Meek-teka-see-wahdl’ or ‘Meek-teka-kee-wadl’) the Lady of the Dead. After the Aztecs were conquered by Spain and Catholicism became the dominant religion, the customs became intertwined with the Christian commemoration of All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1. (sigh! I will keep my opinions regarding the catholic church to myself to prevent offending anyone, but… ok, I’ll be quiet!)

See cool #Mictecacihuatl pictures on Instagram: http://statigr.am/tag/mictecacihuatl

El Dia de los Muertos staple symbol is the Skull. People paint their faces to look like elaborate and colourful skeletons and skulls often decorated with flowers. Candy skulls and cookies are also common. the culture embraces the idea of death as a rite of passage and not as something evil or anything to be afraid of. I personally think it is a very healthy way to look at it. El Dia de los Muertos is a colourful event here to remind us of who we are, and how we want to be remembered after we leave this world. I’ll say go on and paint a skull, remember the ones who have left and celebrate their life.

photoI’ll like to dedicate this post to my Abuelo “Musiu” it would have been his birthday today. We miss you Abuelo.


Find many other brilliant posts about “Dia de los Muertos” visiting other Houston Latina Bloggers

Houston LB (2)


2 thoughts on “Dia de los Muertos: Where Does it Come From?

  1. Thanks for the background on this! My kiddo’s been talking about it because they’re covering it at school but I didn’t know all the historical or geographic background.


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