Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is yearly celebrated in Mexico and many other countries during the last days of October through the first week of November. A time to communicate with the ancestors, it honors the death-transition from one life to another. Blending the Roman Catholic All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) with pre-Hispanic Meso-American indigenous Nahua traditions (Aztecs, Toltecas, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec as well as the non-Nahua Maya) death becomes a colorful dance, where souls never die, they rest in Mictlan.
Pre-Spaniard, this celebration took place in August, an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl.
Ofrendas or offerings might include orange marigolds to attract the souls, toys bought for departed children, bottles of tequila, candies, pan de muerto, and sugar skulls with the deceased named written on the forehead for nourishment, altars with candles, Christian crosses, and pictures of deceased relatives.
People paint on or wear wooden skull masks called calacas. Aztec and other calaveras or skeletons can also be Day of the Dead poems written to make fun of the living.
José Guadalupe Posada, the Mexican artist and cartoonist, was best known for his calaveras assuming different disguises, satirizing life among the priviledged classes during the reign of Porfirio Díaz just prior to the 1910 revolution. Here is shown the famous “Calavera Electrica.”
Photography By Jessica Aldridge and Jack Eidt