NEW YORK – Blending pre-Columbian rituals with the Roman Catholic observance of All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, Latin Americans honored their departed loved ones with Day of the Dead celebrations.
The holiday, known in Spanish as “Dia de los Muertos,” is especially popular in Mexico.
In Lima, a young man applied a fresh coat of paint to a cross on the grave of a loved one while a woman held vigil at her grandmother’s tomb, protected from the sun by an umbrella tied to tree branches.
The cemeteries of Haiti were populated with Voodoo practitioners holding rituals to remember their dead relatives. Candles illuminated the tombs at the San Gregorio Cemetery outside Mexico City, where families communed with their ancestors by holding picnics and decorating the graves with marigolds.
Elaborate altars were erected inside homes around the region to remember loved ones who have died, decorated with photographs, candles, flowers, skeleton figurines, sugar skulls and sometimes the favorite food and drink of the dearly departed.
In Mexico, the holiday decorations included elaborately cut colored pieces of tissue paper called “papel picado” and the image of the elegant “Skeleton Lady,” a drawing made popular by the late Mexican print-maker Jose Guadalupe Posada.
Day of the Dead festivities have begun to fuse with the American celebration of Halloween in some areas. The stereotype of the indigenous woman known as “la cholita,” in her traditional dress and little bowler hat, was portrayed in some parts of Bolivia this year as a zombie, and kids in some areas of Mexico have begun to embrace the U.S. tradition of trick-or-treating.