The tradition of setting up ofrendas dedicated to the departed dates back to the Pre-Hispanic era. They are prepared a few days before the 1st and 2nd of November, the dates when it is believed that the dead return to visit their friends and relatives. The 1st of November is dedicated to children, and the 2nd to adults. The elements of the ofrenda stem from this idea of celebration of death in life.
The ofrenda generally contains different levels that represent heaven, earth and purgatory.
The candles represent the light that guides the dead towards this world.
The pan de muerto is produced at this time. It is a bread covered in sugar. The overlaid strips represent a skeleton, with a knob in the centre that stands for a cranium, with other pieces as the bones.
The sugar calaveritas symbolize friends and family. It is common for them to carry the name of a person at the forehead.
The colorful spotted paper symbolizes the joy of meeting those who have now departed. It is associated with a festive spirit.
The elements that recall the deceased are basic to evoke their presence. It may consist of the objects they liked or belonged to them.
The distinctive aroma of the cempasúchil flowers helps to guide the spirits of the dead on the path to the netherworld.
The religious images remind us of the syncretic nature of this tradition, which although born in the Pre-Hispanic era, succeeded in mixing elements of the evangelization.
The ofrendas also include the favourite food and drink of the deceased, as it is believed that on returning to the terrestrial world they wish to sample these flavors.
The photographs of the deceased are another important element to include in the altars of the Day of the Dead.
In some places, it is also common that musicians accompany the vigil during the ofrenda that makes the death cult a fiesta in life.
Walther Boelsterly, Director del Museo de Arte Popular
Emilio Ortiz, Coordinador de Comunicación Social
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