Dia de los Muertos Traditions
Preparing for our Dia de los Muertos celebration is no joke. It takes months of planning, numerous visits to LA City officials for permits, hours of door knocking before that....well, let's just say we care a lot about this event. Huge thanks to Allegra and Chima for always heading it up! We can always use more volunteers. Call 213-745-6516 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If it is Saturday, November 2nd, volunteers start at 9a.m. and you can just show up, and ask for Allegra or Chima!
There are many traditions, but here are some of the customs we honor every year. (Even more thanks to our intern Annalisa for the research!)
Flores de Papel
Before the Spanish arrived in Mexico, indigenous groups made artificial flowers out of cornhusks. The yellow and orange blooms of the cempasuchil flower are known as the Mexican Marigold and flor de muertos (flower of the dead). The use of this flower dates back to the Aztecs, who used it to decorate their tombs. During colonization, a very thin and colored paper called papel de China (tissue paper) arrived on ships from the Philippines. Since then, flores de papel have been used to celebrate at fiestas, weddings and religious celebrations.
On November 1st (All Saints Day), Guatemalan families visit the graves of loved ones and release handmade kites. The kites serve as a means to communicate with the dead while also removing negative energy that may exist in the cemetery. In the towns of Sumpango andSantiago Sacatépequez the Festival del Barriletes Gigantes (Festival of Giant Kites) has been held for many years. Made of bamboo, tissue paper and gallons of glue these kites are often over fifty feet in diameter. The strong fall winds usually tear the kites to pieces, symbolic of the cycle of life and death
Here our Volunteer Artist also explains:
Did de los Muertos’ calaveras (skulls/skeletons) differ from traditional Halloween skeletons in that they are not meant to be frightening, but rather whimsical and full of color. They embrace death as a part of life and sometimes even poke fun at it. Jose Guadalupe Posada is the artist known for popularizing the Calaveras Bailadoras (Dancing Skeletons). His most well known figure is Catrina, an upper-class woman of the late 19th century wearing a large plumed hat.
During the 19th Century in Mexico, laborers lived and worked on haciendas- large estates that aimed for self-sufficiency. These laborers would purchase all of their necessities from the hacienda store. Many of these stores also stocked papel de China (tissue paper), which laborers would cut into elaborate banners for their celebrations. Over time, these laborers developed into artisans, creating the art form ofpapel picado, which has been passed down from generation to generation. Still today, you can see papel picado at baptisms, weddings, funerals, and national holidays.