DAY OF THE DEAD HISTORY
I remember when I was little and lived in Mexico we would go to our local cemetery “El Panteon Viejo de Guaymas” and indeed it was very old, you can walk in and feel the chills going down your collar bone but at the same time you would see it as an adventure. There was graves with holes that the recent hurricane had left (that was creepy), crosses in the floor like someone had just knocked them down, Baby angels without heads, jars filled with old flowers barely alive because of the black water in their jars, and grave stones decades even centuries old. I don’t recall going on the Day of the Dead at night but do remember visiting all my ancestors during the day, the cemetery would get so full you had to park very far and start your walk from there, some even preferred to take the bus along with many other “Guaymenses” We would get there arrange a fresh set of flowers that we had just bought from the “Mercado Municipal” and set some items that that one particular family member enjoyed. From there we would stay and talk about them during the day then we would go home. We would visit our ancestors a couple times a month, something we did when our grandma died here back in 2000 but now we only go on holidays. Those childhood memories connected with me again when I returned to Guaymas after a 14 year absence (until I got my residency), I took a trip to the “Panteon” to pay homage to them again, and wished that one day I too would lay next to them.
“The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexican or Aztec, Maya, P’urhépecha, and Totonac.
Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the “Lady of the Dead,” corresponding to the modern Catrina.
In most regions of Mexico, November 1 honors children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as “Día de los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents) but also as “Día de los Angelitos” (Day of the Little Angels) and November 2 as “Día de los Muertos” or “Día de los Difuntos” (Day of the Dead).
The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 1st and 2nd in connection with the Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day which occurs on November 1st and All Souls’ Day which occurs on November 2nd. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years, and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. To learn more go Here.