f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

November 4, 2005

a couple days late: dias de los muertos

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:04 am

Despite a timely reminder from Jason at Roadrunner Haiku Journal, I’ve managed to miss celebrating Mexico’s Dias de Los Muertos the Days of the Dead. My sole visit to Mexico, in 1988, coincided with Dias de Los Muertos and the sights, sounds and spirit of the celebration are among my favorite memories. The Mexican emphasis on embracing death and the dead, rather than fearing them, brings joy to those days, to the surprise of Eurocentric Americans.

tiny check A favorite souvenir from that trip is a typical, tiny diorama, featuring several skeletons in a kitchen preparing and enjoying a feast.

diabloLoera At his Dia de los Muertos website, artist Ladislao Loera explains the celebrations, and also presents his striking artwork, which brings an ancient tradition, that has been influenced by several cultures, into a modern idiom. Here is his description of the festivities:

“Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Southwest states, and coincides with the Christian All Souls and All Saints Days. On November 1st and 2nd people remember those who are deceased. November 1st is considered the Dia de los Angelitos–the day to remember children that have died, November 2nd is the traditional Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead).

“Pictures of the deceased are placed on Dia de los Muertos altars with their favorite food and drink. Candles to light their way home, and soap and water to freshen-up after their long trip back are also often placed on altars. Trinkets they were fond of, symbols they would understand, and gifts are left to communicate to them that they are always in the hearts of those they left behind, and that they are still part of the family even though they aren’t physically with us any longer.

…………………………………………………………………………….. Tres Calaveras from Loera

“Families often spend time at the cemetery with loved ones, bringing food and drink along with all the other necessities for a picnic. However, at this picnic the deceased is the guest of honor. Dia de los Muertos is a time of joy because we know that we are surrounded by those that we love–both living and dead. “

You can find many more links and images here, including a Lesson Plan to teach children about Dias de lost muertos. For more information, read a chapter from Death and Bereavement In The Americas, entitled “What Do Mexicans Celebrate On The Day Of The Dead?” (2003), by Salvador, R. J.

diabloLoeraN dagosan has yet to pen a proper poem for the Days of the Dead. At haikupoet.com, however, Paul David Mena (a/k/a extraspecialbitter) celebrated the Day of the Dead on Nov. 1st and 2nd with haiku, and posted four more featuring All Souls Day on Nov. 2nd. Perhaps by coincidence, from Tokyo, Sakuo chose a haiku for Everyday Issa that tells of dying, and he added his own related artwork and renku. These early November days are, then, a very good time to re-connect with loved ones who have died — with joy for their living and for our remaining together in memory and spirit, and on the Day of the Dead.

Dias de los Muertos
grandma passes grandpa
the olive platter

………… by dagosan [Nov. 4, 2005] Loera’s surfeador surfeadorLoeraN

Afterthought (October 30, 2007): The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has this description of Los Dias de los Muertos page that lists many events that have be held this year to coincide with the celebration:

“Although many cultures see death as a cause for sadness rather than celebration, the cultures that observe Los Dias de Los Muertos do not: Death is not seen as something to be faced with fear but as the doorway to other levels of existence. It is believed that during Los Dias de Los Muertos the souls of the dead return to visit the lviign – a cause for celebation — just like the welcome given a dear friend or relative who visits after a long time away.


  1. Very Nice, David! I love this holiday and it is magnificent here in Tucson.

    Dia de los Muertos
    she crosses and uncrosses
    her arms


    Comment by Jason — November 4, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

  2. I just read your article on el Dia de los Muertos and I wanted to thank you for your musings on this holiday and for the kinds words you wrote on behalf of my artwork.

    Everyday that you think of someone who is not alive in the human sense of the word – is a day you celebrate the Day of the Dead.

    Comment by Ladislao Loera — February 3, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  3. Your artwork and commentary were a major source of inspiration and information for my writing of this piece, Ladislao, and it is I who thanks you for helping me understand the Celebration and its spirit. I hope my posting brought your artwork to a new audience. Best wishes.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 3, 2006 @ 9:49 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress