By Lauren Herber, Staff Writer
On Sunday, October 25, I attended Phoenix’s fourth annual Día de los Muertos festival. The event, which took place in Steele Indian School Park, featured live music and dancing, food, art, face painting, and much more. The festival was full of families celebrating this aspect of Mexican culture.
El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated throughout Latin America on November first and second, coinciding with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The holiday serves as a time to remember and honor the dead with rituals that combine the indigenous traditions of the Aztec people and the Roman Catholic traditions introduced to the region by Spanish conquistadors. Día de los Muertos is not a time of mourning, however; rather, it is a celebration of the lives of deceased ancestors. These celebrations often feature food, dancing, and intricate costumes representing calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). These colorful costumes portray the dead as happy and enjoying life. Many times, participants in the festivals celebrating Día de los Muertos will have only half of their face painted as a calavera. This represents the cycle of life: everything that is alive must one day die; no matter how beautifully or well dressed a person is, they will one day be no more than a skeleton.
In addition to these celebrations, the dead are often honored with small altars or ofrendas. These altars often feature offerings including foods, drinks, photos, flowers, and candles. The first day of the holiday honors children who have died, and their ofrendas often include white orchids and baby’s breath. The second day of the holiday honors adults who have died, with ofrendas often consisting of bright orange marigolds, which are often regarded as flor de muerto (flower of death) and are thought to attract the souls of the dead to the ofrendas.
Tucson, Arizona is home to the largest Día de los Muertos celebration in the United States. The event, called the All Souls Procession, is a procession of over 150,000 participants who make use of performances, music, dance, art, and more to celebrate and commemorate the lives of their lost loved ones and ancestors. This year, the All Souls Procession will be held in Tucson on November 7th and 8th. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about an aspect of Latin culture and tradition!