Article and photos by Ron Mader
Latin America Correspondent and the Responsible Travel Contributing Editor 

Altar, Instituto Cultural Oaxaca

          Altar, Instituto Cultural Oaxaca

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is an annual celebration that manifests a rich blend of Catholic and indigenous traditions.

Spirits of the beloved dead return to their homes and visit for a short time with their families and friends. The first day of November the souls of departed children arrive, and on the second day of November they are joined by spirits of adults. Like all visitors, they are welcomed with food, drink, stories, memories, and good will. Their presence is thought of as a blessing rather than a curse, and brings joy to their loved ones.

In preparation for this celebration, the last days of October are spent preparing special loaves of sweet bread (pan de muerto), and desserts; making mole, harvesting special flowers, including marigolds (cempasúchil); creating altars in the home and decorating grave sites. Decorations in the form of macabre but whimsical skeletons and candy skulls abound. Death is not to be feared but embraced.

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