Dia de los Muertos in Chicago

By Edgar A. Diaz, Photo Editor-in-Chief

The Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a multiday holiday on December 1 and 2. This holiday, with roots from Aztec culture, is a stark contrast to Halloween, in which the dead are celebrated, not feared. Families set up ofrendas, altars where they put the pictures and possessions of loved ones who have died, as well as putting out their favorite foods from when they were alive. Then, memories and food are shared as the dead are celebrated for the life they lived. In Mexico, graveyards are the center of the celebration, as the families of the dead return to clean their loved ones’ tombs. 

In a recent Paw Print survey, students of Payton shared their experience and knowledge about the holiday, as well as their favorite Day of the Dead treats. 

“My family will usually go out and buy things such as sugar skulls or other food as an offering. In the past, we have made an altar for those in my family who have passed,” Stephanie Perez ‘24 said. Perez’s favored treats are Calaveras, otherwise known as sugar skulls.

“We celebrate it by honoring those in our family who have died by bringing their ashes to the table and eating tamales and other classic Mexican foods with family. We then go to the Museum of Mexican Arts as it is pretty close to my house,” Alejandro Velazquez ‘23 said. Velazquez ‘s favored treats are Pan de Muerto, as sweet bread only made during the day of the dead.

“We usually set up an ofrenda. We have a long table with pan, tamales, bread, candy, and all kinds of other food and drinks spread out on the table. Some years we’ve also lined the wall with papel picado, and we have pictures of my grandma and other relatives that have passed hanging on the wall or along the table, ” Abram Luna ‘21 said. Luna’s favored treats are Calveras.

This year, due to COVID-19, there will not be large events, but Dia de los Muertos can still be celebrated by gathering with close family members and friends and remembering those who have passed on.

The following photos were taken last year at Dia de Muertos celebratory events in the neighborhood of Pilsen.

The Museum of Mexican Art, located in Pilsen, held a public event in which families could set up public ofrendas for loved ones. The translation reads, “found with God in heaven.”

Orange and yellow marigolds are the primary flowers used in Day of the Dead, as it is believed that their bright colors help attract and guide the dead to their ofrendas and their living family.

La Virgen de Guadalupe shrine at St. Precocious is visited during the festivity of Day of the Dead.

A popular symbol of Day of the Dead, La Calavera Catrina (the elegant skull) symbolizes high-class women of the dead, and the influence of European culture on the Indigenous holiday.

A Day of the Dead parade on 18th Street showcased homemade decorations and costumes of Calaveras.

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