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Mexican Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Death

Mexican Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Death
E093232 Anthropomorphic Figure - Front, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Central America. Horse drawn hearse figure for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. 
© Australian Museum 
photographer: AM, Materials Conservation Dept
 
"The altar is for the people you care most about. You do it because you love the person, not because you have to out of custom. The altar is for the dead, not the living." - quote from a Chichemeca family of women from Pozos, Guanajuato Mexico.

Los Dias de los Muertos (the Days of the Dead), is celebrated by Mexicans on November 1 and 2 (All Saints' and All Souls' Days) each year. On these days, the souls of the dead, following the fragrant trail of the cempasúchil(marigold) petals, return to earth to spend time with their relatives. Traditionally, the first day is for the angelitos, (deceased children) and the second for the dead adults. Especially in rural areas, normal activities are suspended and cemeteries and homes transformed. Local markets provide colourful papeles picados (paper cut-outs), candy skulls and food, and pan de muerto (bread of the dead). Most homes include an altera (altar), laden with ofrendas (offerings) to the deceased, and gravesites are cleaned and decorated with an abundance of candles and flowers.

"The essential ingredients in an altera (altar) are cempasúchil (marigold) flowers - they form the road the dead need to walk on when they return; Dirt or earth - because we live on the earth; salt; ash - because when you die you become ash; water in a glass - because the dead are very thirsty; meat - because the dead haven't eaten all year, so you put out their favourite food for them. The colours orange, purple and white signify the dead. We also light candles to remember them. The light represents the light inside each person." - Quote from a Chichemeca family of women from Pozos, Guanajuato Mexico.

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