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Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

by Carla White

Artist Francisco Cabello captures the Wildest Dreams: Day of the Dead Dance

This is one of Mexico’s most heartfelt, colorful, poignant and fun celebrations. Dia de los Muertos Day of the Dead — encompasses November 1 and 2.  On November 1st, the souls of the children (los angelitos) are honored. On November 2nd, the souls of the adults are remembered. The celebrations of Day of the Dead or All Souls Day are manifested differently in various states of Mexico and nowhere most stunningly than in Michoacan and Oaxaca.  Surprisingly, it has been a lower-key event in Baja California but that is changing as Baja Californians are rediscovering their cultural identity.

Here are some of the traditions that are typically part of  Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos:

*It is up to the living to prepare a reception for the souls of family members who have passed on.  This is an event full of affection, highlighted by items or foods (even favorite beverages, like tequila or wine) that had special importance for the loved one. Generally, this happens at the cemetery where the departed is buried (it sometimes takes place in the home).  Usually, a candle-light procession leads to the cemetery.

*Multitudes of candles are set out, and an altar – some of them huge and ornate — is created.  Photos or paintings of the relative are displayed, and often the family members will share stories of their loved one, when asked.  Marigolds (the powerful scent of which are said to attract the dead) are scattered on the pathways to the cemetery.  The living greet their departed family members with great fervor.

*During the time of Dia de los Muertos,  a special sweetened egg bread is created, often sporting elaborate decoration.  It is called Bread of the Dead – Pan de Muerto.  It can be purchased in many grocery stores and bakeries.  It is eaten by the departed’s grave site.

Pan de Muerto: Day of the Dead bread

Day of the Dead Shopping in Ensenada

Food and art unique to Day of the Dead are found all over Ensenada.  Sugar skulls – white sugar formed into skulls and decorated with vividly colored icing – are abundant in all sizes, from virtual skull size down to egg-size.  Gorgeous ceramic wares ranging in size from tiny to several feet high can be found, usually depicting the beautiful Catrinas that have become synonymous with the occasion.  (José Guadalupe Posada created an image of a costumed female skeleton that he called La Calavera de la Catrina, satirizing Mexican upper-class women, and that figure hs become iconic of Day of the Dead).

La Catrina (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Where are some great places to discover and learn about Day of the Dead curios and art?  In Ensenada, perhaps the richest treasure chest for everything from life-size figures to miniatures, to tin work and ceramic skulls, is Alejandra Ramirez’s Bazar Casa Ramirez on Lopez Mateos 469-3.  Throughout this two-story gallery, you’ll find high-end folk art and crafts, including ‘Catrins’ and ‘Catrinas’, elegant mirrors, jewelry and more.

Other places to find the wonderful ‘Catrinas’ include Fausto Polanco at 1107 Lopez Mateos, a spectacular store for hacienda-style furniture and great interior design ideas.  La Herradura (Lopez Mateos 776) is an interesting little curio store as well, packed with stuff but set apart by real artesenal craft work, particularly when it comes to the little painted boxes (match book sized) that contain amusing scenes featuring things like skeletons watching television, or in a dentist chair, etc.   In Rosarito, look for Arte Oaxaca and the Arcade shops in front of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, as well as Fausto Polanco and Alex Curios.

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  1. […] Ensenada Dia de Los Muerto/Day of the Dead Altar at CEARTE State Art Museum When:  November 1-4 Where:  CEARTE, Blvd. Costero & Ave. Club Rotario A special altar will be on display in the reception area of the museum, in celebration of this period that invites those who have passed to come back and visit the living. Want to know more about Day of the Dead? Go to […]

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