day of the dead

In several pre-Hispanic cultures, life and death were not considered direct opposites. Instead, there was a belief in duality, that one could not be defined or understood without the existence of the other. Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) reflects those pre-Hispanic influences, even today, in its remembrance of the dead and its colorful celebration of life – like two sides of the same coin.

That said, as an outsider learning to appreciate the significance of this holiday, I’ve been surprised a few times by the difference in how Mexicans and Americans think about death. The other day, my host mom, Mónica, told me I should get some clay skulls from the market and take them home for my parents so they would have something from Day of the Dead – and for an extra touch, I should paint the skulls with their names.

She suggested this with such enthusiasm, I didn’t want to crush her by explaining that in the U.S., giving my parents skulls decorated with their names would come across more like a subtle death threat than as a thoughtful souvenir. I told her I might just send them some pictures instead.

Click on the photos to learn about Day of the Dead traditions!

 

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