A Colorful Celebration: Dia de los Muertos

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Today is the first of two days in which those who have passed are honored and remembered in Mexican culture. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is not a morbid or scary holiday like Halloween is meant to be. It is a time in which we remember our loved ones who have passed away and celebrate their lives. On November 1st, children who have passed away are honored and on November 2nd deceased adults are remembered. This celebration dates back for thousands of years in the indigenous cultures of Mexico and was later blended with Catholic traditions after the Spanish conquered Mexico.

Both sides of my family are Mexican of Spanish ancestry, but to be completely honest, we never celebrated the Day of the Dead in the way that I used to teach my students about. My family is from the city of Monterrey, the country’s industrial capital which is in northern Mexico. For my family, the Day of the Dead simply meant taking flowers to our relatives at the cemetery. However, this rich cultural tradition of celebrating the dead is more prevalent in central and southern Mexico where elaborate “ofrendas”, or offerings are set up with marigolds (the flowers of the dead), the deceased’s favorite food and drink, pictures of loved ones, favorite objects and so on, in order to make them feel welcome. This video gives a great, albeit brief explanation of Día de los Muertos:


get the look

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{Colorful Accessories from Cerulean and a little Oscar de la Renta}

fresh catrina

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{Are you inspired to host a Día de los Muertos party next year? Keep these papel picado invitations from Etsy in mind. This recipe for the “Fresh Catrina” from Espolón Tequila would make a great signature cocktail!}

Fresh Catrina Cocktail

Muddle strawberry with black peppercorns. Rinse a cocktail glass with absinthe. Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker and fine strain into the rinsed cocktail glass.
Who better to create this Dia de los Muertos cocktail than the talented Waugh at New York’s famed Death & Company? The cocktail is named for Catrina, a skeletal figure who has become closely associated with Day of the Dead. In this recipe, the light and fruity taste of strawberry combined with the dark pop of anise and black pepper pays tribute to both the elegance of the Catrina and the darkness of death.


Día de los Muertos is a very rich tradition that I hope to experience in Mexico some day. However, given the current state of affairs there, I am making that statement with a heavy heart. I have not been to Mexico in five years and I can’t imagine going back in the foreseeable future. At least not until the drug cartels loosen their grip on the country. It is a terrible situation. One that worries me every day considering the fact that my entire extended family lives in Monterrey. 

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