Dia De Los Muertos: Toasting with the Dead

Last week Mexicans and Chicanos alike celebrated Dia De Los Muertos or the (Day of the Dead) on November 2nd. Dia De Los Muertos is an indigenous Mexican tradition that contains historic, spiritual and familial significance. Dia De Los Muertos is not a holiday like Halloween with ghouls and goblins but rather a cultural practice of family remembrance. This particular indigenous Mexican tradition was brought to the world stage with Disney+Pixar’s 2017 animated feature COCO, a tale of a youthful and conflicted musician that visits the afterlife to locate his famous mariachi grandfather. Yet, long before COCO hit the box office and before Western contact in the Americas, the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos was being practiced in the Mexican States of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

This particular ceremony occurs when families create a central “altar” in the home or at a gravesite to enjoin the worlds of the living and the dead for one night. The living lay out flowers, pictures and the favorite foods or drink of the departed. The living tell compelling and sometimes comical stories of the Muertos’ life and past loves. The action of remembering loved one’s through laughter, storytelling and compassion allows for cultural memory to be gently passed down from generation to generation. On one hand, Dia De Los Muertos has survived, grown and become a recognizable part of mainstream society through the popularity of the movie COCO. On the other hand, the indigenous ceremony is a reminder to the living to follow their deepest dreams and aspirations. So that you too are laughed about, cried over and toasted too.

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