Observing Dia de Los Muertos Is a Family Affair

First Person, Various Authors | Photo by David Meza

Editor’s Note: Celebrating Dia de Los Muertos —Day of the Dead — is a longstanding tradition in Mexico dating back to the Aztecs that honors loved ones who have passed away. Observed Nov. 1 & 2, the holiday is also celebrated here in the United States by Mexican-Americans and other Latinos. Richmond Pulse asked Richmond High students about how they celebrate the holiday and what it teaches them about death.

 

“I celebrate Dia de Los Muertos by going to Mass with my family and praying for our loved ones who have passed. Then, we go home and make either pozole or tamales with atole and or agua fresca. Being a Mexican-American, it is a special day in my culture and makes me feel closer to my deceased relatives, whom I never met because I didn’t visit Mexico until I was 16. The Day of the Dead has made me fear death less because I know that even after I pass, I will always be remembered and celebrated by my future relatives.” —Heidi Carranza, 17

“I celebrate Dia de los Muertos by making a Guatemalan dish called fiambre, a cold salad of different cheeses, meats, and vegetables. In my family, we usually make enough to last us around two weeks. Making fiambre is a tradition in my family that has been going on for as long as I can remember. Throughout the year, my family and I don’t communicate enough, but while we cut cheese into blocks and dice vegetables into miniature squares, we bond and remember the people before us. Dia de los Muertos is one of my favorite days of the year because it brings my family together and allows us to keep the bonds that slowly fade away over time.” — Valeria Echeverria, 17

“We celebrate it by putting a picture of our loved ones up to honor them, to let them know they haven’t left our minds or hearts. That they know they will forever be with us, even after they are gone. The Day of the Dead is important to me because we get to honor our dead relatives and remember them. It’s a big event for me because I get to hear stories about my great-grandmother who passed away and how she was to my grandparents. It helps me understand death because, even after you are gone from this world, people will remember you no matter what happens. They will honor you and welcome you back. Even after death, they will see you as if you haven’t left them, as it isn’t just being buried and put away but to be remembered by those who loved you.” — David Sanchez, 17

“In my family, El Dia de los Muertos is usually celebrated by going to the cemetery and visiting our loved ones. While we’re there, we usually just sit around, eat, and play music that brings back positive memories from when they were still with us. This day is important to me because I feel it shows others that we never forget about people in our family and that we still care about them, no matter where they are. This helps me think of death as a not-so negative thing, because no matter what, you still have people who love you and people who will never leave your side.” — Laura Ventura, 16

“In the Day of the Dead, my family and I spend the day in the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. There, we spend most of the night lighting up candles around the tomb and listening to sad music to remember them. My family also gathers things that my ancestors liked — such as beer, candy lollipops, and flowers — and place them around the tomb. After being there for a while, we go to my aunt’s house where we eat some of our cultural foods like pozole and tamales. To me, the Day of the Dead is important because I get to connect and feel closer to them. El Dia de los Muertos helps me understand death because it is a holiday where we can specifically honor our ancestors. It helps me understand what death is because in this holiday it is said that the people who have past on come closer to us on this day.” — Lizbeth Valenzuela, 17

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