Celebrating Life and Remembering the Dead

by Mariana Muñoz, Arthur DiVitalis, Julia Farrell, and Karen Martinez

The third annual Día de los Muertos festival in Austin, Texas.

Día de los Muertos is becoming a larger occasion in the capital of Texas. The third year annual festival was held in Austin on October 17, though the holiday is on November 1 and 2.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, started out as an Aztec ritual that began almost 3000 years ago. Today, the Mexican community uses altars, candles, and food to commemorate the loss of loved ones.

“It’s about loved ones and their memories and keeping it alive and celebrating their life as well – not just their death, but their life,” said Sabrina Garcia, festival participant.

Jennifer Perez, one of the participants at the festival, made an altar in honor of her father who died last year.

“What better way to keep a loved one’s memory alive than to have an altar dedicated to him and the people that we love,” said Perez. “It just brings the family together and makes sure that person is not going to be forgotten.”

Altars are traditionally placed at grace sites to provide food and treats to the deceased. They are also found in the home, at church, or at local restaurants. Altars can honor one or many people.

While death is often seen as a negative concept in our society, the point of the holiday is not to mourn the dad, but rather to celebrate their lives.

“It’s very important to not think of death as a bad thing and to where you can bring out colorful things instead of dressing in all in black,” said Jeanette Docasar, participant at the festival. “You can actually be colorful, beautiful, remember people, dance, and celebrate.”

Although Día de los Muertos is most often associated with Mexican culture, it is a holiday that can unite people of all different backgrounds.

“Nowadays it brings together many cultures. It’s celebrated everywhere in the world,” said Docasar, who celebrates with Spanish relatives. “It’s always been such a beautiful thing for us.”

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