The Meaning Behind Dia de los Muertos

Maya Nuñez and Chiara Gutierrez

The Day of the Dead ( or Día de los Muertos) is celebrated all throughout Mexican culture. Many people think it’s all about the sugar skulls, fancy dresses, and bright colors, but its meaning goes way deeper than most know.

An example of the decorative skulls used to decorate ofrendas and grave sites on Dia de los Muertos

 On November 1st people all throughout Mexico use this day to remember their ancestors and passed loved ones. Many people use this day to take flowers and balloons to pay a visit to the deceased at the cemetery. You may have heard about the movie Coco or you may have watched it. This movie is based on a boy and his family celebrating Dias De Los Muertos. This movie is a good example of what happens on Días De Los Muertos as it does show about everything that happened on this day.

A scene from the movie “Coco” that takes place on the Dia de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos was originally created by the ancient Aztec civilization. They would remember and honor the dead just like we do on the Day of the Dead. The Aztecs would provide food and drinks to their deceased ones on their journey to the land of the dead. In different places they would do different things. For example in Spain, they would bring bread and wine to the grave of the deceased one. Días De Los Muertos is also celebrated to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 2).  

Even though there is a lot of history on Dia De Los Muertos. Most people remember it for the skeletons and sugar skulls. On the Day of the Dead, you’ll most likely see people with painting of a colorful bright skull on their face. Many people may think the sugar skull is scary or strange, but it is actually meant to have a positive meaning. Some people paint their face to overcome their fear of death or to show that there is a positive life after death. Other people wear it just because it became popular in Mexico to do so. These days many prepare treats such as champurado or a spiced Mexican hot chocolate.

Decorated sugar skulls are also used to decorate and design graves and gravestones. The reason it is called a sugar skull is because the clay that was originally used to make the model skulls contained sugar and were decorated with accessories like beads and feathers.

On Día De Los Muertos families remember their deceased ones, but some people enjoy the entertainment of the holiday as well. We interviewed 7th Grade STEAM student Marisa Alvarez who celebrates the Day of the Dead and she said, “My favorite thing about Dias de los Muertos is being in the dance group im in and performing on dias De Los Muertos at events.” 

The Day of The Dead is to remember deceased love ones we have lost. One of the ways people honor the dead on Dia de los Muertos is by setting up an ofrenda. An ofrenda is something that you put on display with pictures of a loved one that passed away. They do this to welcome their family back into the real world for that day, in a respectful way.  They would also put food and water on the ofrendas to offer them something when they come back to the real world.

An ofrenda honoring a lost loved one.

Here in San Pedro and all over LA there are various celebrations celebrating Day of the Dead. In downtown San Pedro there is a Day of the Dead parade held on October 27. These parades have folkloric0 dancers and mariachis performing to entertain crowds and honor the holiday. The parades are a good way to celebrate and have fun.

Marigolds are a traditional flower on this holiday.

If you haven’t experienced it, Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that is used to remember and honor lost loved ones and celebrate life.