In Aztec culture, a goddess who was also Queen of the Underworld was responsible for watching over the bones of the dead. Día de Muertos, derived from this belief, is a festival celebrated throughout Mexico and other Hispanic countries to celebrate family and to pray for their spiritual journey.
It is celebrated on October 31st in the belief that the veil separating the deceased and the living is removed to allow deceased children to visit the earth for 24 hours. It is known as Dia de Los Angelitos, “Day of the little Angels”. Adult spirits join the festivities on November 1st and are welcomed with food and drink.
Altars to the dead are erected in homes and the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried.
Lighted by a multitude of candles as part of the vigil.
Orange marigolds (Flor de Muerto) believed to attract souls are used in in the decoration of these altars and cemeteries.
Preparation for the festival begins weeks in advance where sugar art, introduced to Mexico by the European missionaries, is widespread in the stores. Sugar decorations of skulls, coffins and skeletons are created in remembrance of departed love ones. The skull is decorated with symbols representative of the departed soul with the name written on the forehead. Always cheerful and colorful to capture the memory of the loved one, they are placed on the gravestone to welcome the soul.
Calaveros is a Spanish word meaning skull that has also become known as a satirical poem during the festival. Fake obituaries are written in poetic form to make fun of people and are often slightly insulting.
The time had finally come
Don Hugo was taken away
The skinny one named “Death” just had her way.
A piece of cake went down his throat
That made him sound just like a goat
There was no milk at hand you see
So blue and purple he came to be.
Don’t cry Hugo dear
For in our hearts we will still hear
The goatly sounds that you did make
And in your name, we’ll have some cake.
City newspapers publish these poems in a special section. Writers are also hired by the newspaper to mock famous people and politicians.