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El Día De Los Muertos In Guatemala And Mexico

By Ashley Alonzo
On October 28, 2016

Photo by: Superchevere Copyright © 2016

In the United States, Halloween is one iconic celebratory day for people to dress up and gather to go trick-or-treating. Guatemala and Mexico are countries that take this day as a very traditional festivity. In these two Latin-American countries, Halloween is seen as the devil’s day and “El Día de los Muertos” is the day when families can visit cemeteries, as they bring flowers and commemorate the death of their loved ones. 

In Mexico, El Día de los Muertos starts on Nov. 2 and is celebrated annually. Whereas in Guatemala, this festivity takes up to three days starting on Oct. 31 and extending to Nov. 2.

To the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Guatemala, death was considered the passage to a new life, therefore, the deceased were buried with personal objects that would be used in the afterlife. In other words, this festivity does not only celebrate death but also the cycle of life. From skulls to toys, indigenous people use them to decorate tombs and make the remembrance of the death of their loved ones easier to bear.

Once we understand the reason for this festivity, we can talk about the festivity itself in Mexico. Since this is only celebrated for one day, people start by getting up early expecting a day full of food trucks, game stands, flower stands and even rides around the cemetery. The celebration begins by using flower petals to guide the way to each tomb, and then as people arrive they bring flowers, food and photographs to give as a tribute to their dead loved ones.

In Guatemala, the cemeteries take up a large portion of territory. Therefore having one day to celebrate El Día de los Muertos is rather difficult, especially because not everyone would have the time or space do their rituals. The first day, Oct. 31, is not a very busy day, but it gives time to those who prefer to spend a good amount of time with their dead relatives at the cemetery by themselves. However, the second day, Nov. 1, is the busiest day because that is the main time Guatemala celebrates this festivity. The last day, Nov. 2, is often one where not a lot of people go to the tombs, but they go instead to the carnival to celebrate life.

One aspect that stands out the most in Guatemala is the use of barriletes (kegs or kites). Flying barriletes mean freedom: The string that holds onto it is very strong, and the kite goes up in the sky and flies as far as the string lets it.

Traditional food beverages are a must during the carnival because what is a carnival without its traditions? Garnachas, Pan de muerto, Fiambre, Verduras en escabeche, emapanadas de ayote, molletes rellenos, garbanzos, mole de platano, ayote and jocote en miel are some traditional foods. Ponche de frutas, traditional liquors and juices are the kind of beverages Guatemalans and Mexicans expect on this day.

This sort of celebration might be odd to other countries, especially other Latin-American countries, but for Mexicans and Guatemalans El Día de los Muertos is one of the most memorable days after Independence Day.

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