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Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos, meaning Day of the Dead, is a holiday in Mexico, parts of Latin America, and in the United States. This holiday honors dead loved ones and makes peace with the eventuality of death by treating it familiarly, without fear and dread. The holiday is derived from the rituals of the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mexico. Led by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as “Lady of the Dead,” the celebration lasted a month. After the Spanish arrived in Mexico and began converting the native peoples to Roman Catholicism, the holiday was moved to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1 and 2, respectively). Learn more

Learn about La Llorona

Día de los Muertos Culture

Ofrendas or Alters

Ofrendas (Alters)

Traditional alters, or ofrendas, (literally offerings), are structures that are created to honor a saint, a holiday, or for permanent remembrance in the home. More

Calaveras or Skulls

Calaveras (Skulls)

Found in traditional Mexican folk religions, the celebration of the dead that includes the use of skulls and skeletons to represent both the living and the dead has found its way into the homes and hearts of Americans everywhere. More

Paper Arts (Papel Picado, Papier Mâché, and Kites)

Paper Arts (Papel Picado, Papier Mâché, and Kites)

Among the many paper arts found in Latino communities, papel picado, piñatas, papier-mâché, and kites, are the most popular. More

Flores para los Muertos (Flowers for the Dead)

Flores para los Muertos (Flowers for the Dead)

Flowers, which symbolize the brevity of life, are an essential element of the Día de los Muertos ofrenda. More

Pan de Muertos (Bread for the Dead)

Pan de Muertos (Bread for the Dead)

Food plays a significant role in Día de los Muertos rituals. Food is the means through which the living are able to maintain a relationship with the dead. More

Migration and Transformation to the U.S.

Migration and Transformation

El Día de los Muertos is one of the biggest holidays in Mexico and a major Latino celebration in the United States. More

Mariposas Monarcas (Monarch Butterflies)

Mariposas Monarcas (Monarch Butterflies)

The arrival every winter of billions of monarch butterflies in the mountains of central Mexico coincides with Día de los Muertos. More

Día de los Muertos Films

Mexico: Day of the Dead- My Americas

In this program, Roberto Alcaraz travels to Oaxaca to discover one of Mexico’s most defining and colorful feasts, celebrated every year on November 2nd. 

Festivals: Day of the Dead, Mexico

Festivals: Day of the Dead, Mexico

This film showcases Mexico’s Día de los Muertos celebrations that unite the living and the dead in feasting, dancing and decoration. 

Days of the Dead: A Living Tradition

Days of the Dead: A Living Tradition

The film follows the travels and experiences of a young Purépecha artisan, her grandmother, and their family during the weeks leading up to the Día de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos: A History

Día de los Muertos: A History

Celebrate Día de los Muertos. This multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember those who have died.

Artbound: Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

Artbound: Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

This film offers a more intimate look at Día de los Muertos through the story of artist Ofelia Esparza who continues the tradition of building altars to remember the dead. 

Wonders of Mexico: Day of the Dead and Monarch Butterflies

Wonders of Mexico: Day of the Dead and Monarch Butterflies

For thousands of years the people living in Mexico’s mountains have believed these butterflies are the spirits of the dead. 

Día de los Muertos Books

Día de los Muertos Scholarly Articles

Teaching about the

Teaching about the "Ofrenda" and Experiences on the Border

This article will give a brief history of ofrendas and describe the artistic and educational experiences related to ofrenda displays in Florida. More

Pre-Hispanic Component of the Syncretic Cult of the Dead in Mesoamerica

Pre-Hispanic Component of the Syncretic Cult of the Dead in Mesoamerica

This article analyzes the pre-Hispanic component of the cult of the dead. More

El Día de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living.

El Día de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living.

This paper will analyze American-style public celebrations of Day of the Dead as a form of moral economy. More

Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos

This article offers information on the celebration and history of Día De Los Muertos. More

Rituales del Día de los Muertos

Rituales del Día de los Muertos

Rituals of Día de los Muertos. More

La Llorona

La Llorona Statue

“La Llorona” is a folk legend with origins throughout Mexico, the US, and Central and South America. The oldest version of the legend dates to 1550 in Mexico City. The basic legend is about a beautiful woman from a less privileged background (usually a poor Indian) who is seduced by a man of privileged status (usually a rich Spanish hidalgo). They have children, but after some time, the man leaves. In the legend, she kills her own children either because the man threatened to take them or because the woman has been driven crazy by grief, envy, or rage. Because drowning is the most common death in the many versions of this story, La Llorona is usually said to haunt waterways, and she even has a creek in Texas assumed to be a translation of her name, Woman Hollering Creek. Read more

Chavela Vargas sings La Llorona

"During this season to honor the dead, there is a popular song that is shared called La Llorona. It is a beautiful and historic song. Many Latin American singers have sung it, but no one like Chavela Vargas who is an icon among the artists scene.” 

—Professora Maria Figueroa, MiraCosta Faculty, English Department

"Growing up I was terrified of La Llorona. As an adult I became curious about this mysterious señora (woman) who was accused of drowning her children. Why were there so many versions of her story? Why did she not rest in peace like most dead folks? Why did she have a mission to snatch “chiquillos traviesos” also known as bad children? This of course was just another version of La Chancla personified as la LLorona to get children to listen. Hearing Chavela Vargas’ song of La LLorona has introduced me to a real woman who was misunderstood for centuries. If you listen to the song and her cry, move past the creepy llantos (screams) and most importantly listen with corazon abierto (open heart), you’ll almost hear her pain and the love of two individuals separated by tragedy. If you’re not ready for Chavela, then consider listening to Pedro Infante or Angela Aguilar. To me it’s a love story gone bad, it’s about the complexities of womanhood and motherhood. It reminds me of the many women who suffer from post-partum and depression and never get help. As a result we walk in limbo waiting for an opportunity to step into our own sanity while longing for self-care. That’s my interpretation of my Beautiful LLorona, and I’m sticking to it."

—Beatriz (Bea) Palmer, M.A., MiraCosta Program Manager, Service Learning & Volunteer Center

La Llorona Books

La Llorona Scholarly Articles

La Llorona, El Kookooee, and Sexuality.

Presents the author's reflections on sexuality as a Catholic and its associations to the folklores he believed in during his childhood. More

Along the creek behind St. Catherine's: Hispanic folklore of Emporia, Kansas.

Provides a glimpse into the folklore that has persisted in Emporia, Kansas, throughout the 20th century as related by Hispanic residents. More

Buscando para nuestra latinidad: Utilizing La Llorona for Cultural Critique.

This essay analyzes the contemporary constructions of Latina/o identity, Latina/o gender and Latina/o nationality as evidenced in the self-proclaimed “first major studio comedy to reflect the Hispanic cultural experience in America,” Chasing Papi." More

Haunting the Borderlands: La Llorona in Sandra Cisneros's "Woman Hollering Creek."

Sandra Cisneros writes about "those ghosts inside that haunt me, that will not let me sleep." More

Evidence for a Developing Variant of "La Llorona."

Stories of La Llorona sightings in non-traditional spaces across the United States. More

Women Hollering: Contemporary Chicana Reinscriptions of La Llorona Mythography.

Examining contemporary interpretations of the La Llorona myth, from the writings of  Monica Palacios, Sandra Cisneros, and Angela de Hoyos. More

Words, Worlds in Our Heads: Reclaiming La Llorona's Aztecan Antecedents in Gloria Anzaldúa's "My Black Angelos."

Reclaiming La Llorona as a woman of action rather than a passive object of circumstance. More

Los Pasos de La Llorona Sobre Ciudad Juárez: Voces de Resistencia en la Literatura de Mujeres de la Frontera México-Estados Unidos.

An analysis of writings by women from Ciudad Juárez, as they relate to contemporary interpretations of the legend of La Llorona. More

The Legend of La Llorona: Historical, Cultural, and Feminist Significance.

How La Llorona has become a feminist figure, aiding Mexican women in reclaiming their femininity and heritage. More (note: this article is slow to load)

La Llorona on the Internet