Associated Press

Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

ICTMN Staff
11/1/11

Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos began as a Mexican holiday—a mixture of indigenous and Catholic religious beliefs—as a way to honor family members who are no longer among the living. The celebrations are recognized on November 2 following All Saints Day on November 1 and have seen similar celebrations appear around the world. Day of the Dead festivities can be found throughout Central and Latin America, along with areas of Europe and North America.

As with many traditions expanding and mixing with cultures the Day of the Dead festivities vary depending on the country and the groups. Some are more colorful than others, or offer more of a celebration of the life’s that once were, while others use it as a chance to reconnect, to catch up with the deceased loved ones.

Below are images of Day of the Dead celebrations from around the world:

Bolivia

Some families in Bolivia hire bands or take other forms of music, sing, recite prayers or hire singers to perform during these celebrations. Pictured, women stand around a Ferris wheel during Day of the Dead celebrations at the Villa Ingenio cemetery in El Alto, Bolivia, on November 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Though Bolivia’s Day of the Dead isn’t as colorful as celebrations in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries around the world they still celebrate the day. However, Bolivia also has its own special celebration that happens November 8 called Natitas. Every year on November 8 in the city of La Paz, Bolivia people gather at the main cemetery cradling skulls in their arms. These skulls are the natitas, spirits that are seen as members of the family, whose health, good fortune and homes they protect. Their public celebration is a growing tradition in the Aymara Indian and mixed race community of La Paz. (Photo: Sara Shahriari)
Natitas is a celebration where Bolivians fete skulls that guard their homes. It’s a custom deeply rooted in pre-colonial Andean religious practice. Ines Ugarte’s natita is named Choco. Ugarte says Choco was given to her as a gift, and that if no one in her family can take care of him as she ages he will be buried with her. “It’s someone who accompanies me and takes care of me – it’s like having another person in the house,” she says. “I talk with him. He doesn’t answer, but we talk.” (Sara Shahriari)The Natitas are given cigarettes, alcohol and beautiful flower crowns each year on November 8, to create a day that pleases these household spirits. Anthropologists say that the ritual use of human remains has been part of indigenous Andean cultures for thousands of years. (Sara Shahriari)

Brazil

In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday celebrated by many Brazilians who visit cemeteries and churches. People pay their respects at a cemetery in Sao Jose dos Campos, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)People light candles at a cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

Ecuador

The Day of the Dead celebration may have started in Mexico but it has spread throughout Central and Latin America as a combination of indigenous and Catholic religion. In Ecuador the day is seen as a time to “catch up” with the ones who are no longer with us but have a life in a different world. In this picture women share "colada morada and guaguas de pan" at the Calderon cemetery, on the outskirts of Quito during Day of the Dead celebrations, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

El Salvador

In El Salvador it is customary to place flowers on the tombs of deceased loved ones, along with wreaths of natural or paper flowers, or cypress leaf wreaths for the aroma. Food generally consumed on this day is tamales and sliced pumpkin cooked with brown sugar. A reveler, wearing a mask, attends celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Tonacatepeque, El Salvador, November 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)

Guatemala

All indigenous communities in Guatemala have incorporated the Day of the Dead ceremonies into their own traditions, and each adds its own color and pageantry to make it their own. A man arrives with flowers to visit a relative's grave during Day of the Dead in Sumpango, Guatemala in 2010. A typical Guatemalan meal on this day is fiambre, a Spanish dish that is a stew made of meat or fish, vegetables, olives and capers. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Haiti

On November 1 Haiti's Protestants, Catholics and Voodooists celebrate the Day of the Dead. Voodoo traditions mix with other observances as people honor Gede and Baron Samdi, two voodoo deities. (Sipa via AP Images)Typical celebrations consist of placing offerings of flowers and food at the base of large crosses decorated and dedicated to the two deities, Gede and Baron Samdi. (Sipa via AP Images)

Nicaragua

Extended families convene at cemeteries throughout Nicaragua on the Day of the Dead, a National holiday. Faithful carry a sculpture of Jesus after a mass during celebration of the Day of Dead in the Oriental cemetery in Managua, Nicaragua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)Graves are decorated with colorful floral arrangements to honor those family members no longer among the living. People inflate balloon's before a mass during Day of Dead celebrations at the Oriental cemetery in Managua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)"

Peru

In Peru, family members prepare the deceased’s favorite meal, and may leave a cigarette out for smokers as part of the indigenous honoring for Day of the Dead. People pose for pictures in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)The meal and items left, for Day of the Dead, often are more valuable than what family members are able to afford. A boy plays in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Spain

A man in a wheelchair stops to look at a grave of a family member during the Day of the Dead at a cemetery in Pamplona, northern Spain, on November 1, 2004. Spaniards celebrate the Day of the Dead every year on this day by visiting and placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

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ukumbwa's picture
ukumbwa
Submitted by ukumbwa on
It is always beautiful to see culture and tradition carried consciously and proudly. I am interested to know how much of the catholicity of these practices is really roman catholic in practice or if the syncretic nature of some of these traditions is merely a cover in the name of resistance to colonialism and cultural imperialism. It is questionable why we would still use the symbols of the oppressive society (i.e., cross, Jesus) if the imminence of colonialist violence has abated. Honoring the dead and creating functional relationship is always a good thing and this is important cultural sharing and opportunity for learning. Thank you so much, ICTMN!
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