A foreign tradition that I observe the first week of November every year is Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). During the trek from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on our vacation, I see a variety of small towns along the way with ornately decorated cemeteries that reflect the tradition of observing the dead. Markets and shops throughout our passage of the Baja Peninsula are adorned with traditional decorations and characters for sale. This paper will describe the tradition, discuss the history and conclude with my view of this exhibition. .
November 1st, All Saints Day, and November 2nd, All Souls Day are marked throughout Mexico by a plethora of intriguing customs depending widely according to the ethnic roots of each region. Common to all, however, are colorful ornamentation and lively gatherings at family burial plots, the preparation of special foods, offerings which are laid out for the departed on commemorative altars and religious rites which are likely to include noisy fireworks. .
In most regions November 1st is reserved for the memory of deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels). Those who have died as adults are honored on November 2nd at which time family members gather at the cemetery for gravesite reunions, which are more festive than somber. Some relatives bring along picnic baskets, bottles of tequila for toasting or even a mariachi band to lead a heartfelt sing-along. Local merchants set up provisional stands outside the cemetery gates to sell food and drinks to the revelers. The booming of pyrotechnic rockets may accompany a commencement in an open-air memorial mass, which is the occasion's most solemn moment.
From mid-October through the first week of November, markets and shops all over Mexico abound in the special accessories for the Dia de Los Muertos. These items include a variety of skeletons and other macabre toys; intricate tissue paper cut-outs; elaborate wreaths and crosses which are decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and votive lights; and fresh flowers, particularly marigolds.