Dias De Los Muertos: La Historia

Tye Baker, staff writer

Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a rather underrated holiday in Abilene, Texas. Of course, it always makes an appearance (especially in the Spanish hallway!), but it is not celebrated by most as a full-fledged holiday. Perhaps this is due to a lack of understanding of what the holiday actually represents. As it is traditionally told, “Dia de los Muertos” is a day in which the border between the living and dead  dissolves, and the two worlds fuse into one. Loved ones who have passed come down from the Heavens to rejoice with their families through food, music, and dance. It is a day of culture and is celebrated throughout the world. But, where exactly did Dia de los Muertos come from? How did the holiday evolve into what we know today as the “Day of the Dead?”


( https://www.utsa.edu/today/2020/10/story/day-of-dead-virtual-exhibit.html )

Well, it actually started with the Aztecs.

According to history.com: “The Aztecs and other Nahua people living in what is now central Mexico held a cyclical view of the universe, and saw death as an integral, ever-present part of life.” This is an element of Day of the Dead that has been passed down from its origins. However, the main point is that death is a part of life. Instead of being mourned, death should be celebrated and rejoiced. Aztecs and other Nahua people believed that, post mortem, the dead travelled to “Chicunamictlán” or “The Land of the Dead”.  To get to Mictlán (or the eternal resting place), deceased members would have to pass through nine grueling challenges, each getting progressively more difficult. Traditionally, the Aztecs would offer water, food, and tools to help aid the dead on their long, laborious journey.

This celebration that the Aztecs and other Nahua people performed eventually evolved into Dia de los Muertos.  But, in modern times, how do people celebrate a more contemporary version of this ancient holiday?

A photo of an ofrenda. ( https://tostadamagazine.com/2019/10/28/video-artists-show-solidarity-with-migrant-crisis-at-dias-day-of-the-dead-ofrenda-displays/ )

There are many ways to celebrate this special day, the most popular being to build ofrendas in your home for your family members who have passed. An ofrenda is a home altar typically created by the family members of a deceased person. These altars are typically elaborate and detailed, containing things like candles, bright marigolds, and food such as tortillas and fruit. However, there are also other ways to celebrate, such as dressing up in costumes and eating skulls shaped from sugar.

To put it simply, Dia de los Muertos is a very cultural, respected holiday throughout the world. So, for next year, try starting a Dia de los Muertos tradition! Build an ofrenda, put up some photos of your deceased love ones, and come together to appreciate and recognize that death should not be feared, but celebrated!