The Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition that is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. It sounds like a good idea to place an offering on the tomb of a loved one, as it seems to say that we still remember that person, and that in a way he or she is not completely gone. And the Day of the Dead serves precisely that same purpose.
The Day of the Dead is an ancient tradition that dates back to the times of the Aztecs (around the mid-1300s). It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd each year (November 1st for dead children, and November 2nd for adults) by setting altars and offerings to honor dead relatives, friends, and historical figures.
Offerings contain food, papel picado (colorful paper that has been carefully cut in different shapes), cigarettes and liquor (it it is an offering to an adult), as well as typical Mexican dishes such as the traditional mole. The offerings are always full of marigold flowers or cempasúchitl . These bright orange flowers that resemble small suns are typically used in offerings to the dead in Mexico.
In Mexico itself, the Mexican government makes every effort to protect the country´s ancient traditions, and so we can see these altar offerings set up in all schools, public offices, underground stations, supermarkets, and, of course, cemeteries. While people in urban areas do not usually set up altars inside their houses, in the countryside it is common to see this altars in homes everywhere, and this tradition is taking root in the United States as well.
In Michigan, for example, the Detroit Institute of Arts, in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico in Detroit, has since 2014 organized a Dia de los Muertos Artist Demonstration to celebrate the Mexican tradition of ofrenda altars. Mexicans and foreigners alike presented and displayed their finished projects at the DIA.
Last year, the DIA exhibition included offerings in honor of many famous people. There was an offering to actor Robin Williams (who had just passed away), and another one to Mexican photographer, Lola Alvarez Bravo, one of Mexico´s first professional women photographers (1907-1993), whose work is on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, D.C.
“Ofrendas have also been created as a way to pay homage to not only people but places, moments in time, ideas and events that people feel ware worth commemorating”, says Carrie Morries, DIA Program Coordinator.
This year, the DIA exhibition will be open to the public between October 25th and November 3rd. We look forward to this year´s altars to the dead and their specific topics Last year, the offerings were impressive.