Let’s Talk Día de los Muertos
It’s día de muertos!
El día de muertos (the day of the dead) takes place principally on Nov 1st & 2nd. It’s often falsely considered the Mexican version of Halloween. But it’s really a traditional tribute to deceased relatives and loved ones, whose spirits come back on those days to visit family and friends. In the Mexican tradition, tiered altars (called ofrendas) are created and adorned with offerings including flowers (flores), candles (velas), food (comida), photos (fotos), incense (copal) and more for those relatives expected to visit.
Photo of una ofrenda:
Here’s some essential día de muertos vocab:
ofrendas = altars / offerings
flores = flowers
cempasúchil = Mexican marigold (orange flower in photo above)
velas = candles
copal = incense from dried resin of the Copal tree
fieles difuntos = faithful / dearly departed
alma = soul
alebrijes = spirit animals that guide the dead on their journey
esqueleto = skeleton
calaca = skeleton (Mexican slang)
calavera / calaverita de azucar = sugar skull (ita – is the diminutive form meaning ‘little’)
You may have noticed the photo above is taken from one of the most colorful and animated looks into the día de muertos tradition – 2017’s hit Disney movie Coco. It wasn’t just your average cartoon – it made over $800 million world-wide and became the biggest box-office success in Mexican history!
The original version is in English, but many have said the Spanish language version is just as good – if not better. And lucky enough, in both versions the character ‘Hector’, is voiced by Mexican-born Gael García Bernal (of Mozart in the Jungle fame).
So if you find yourself with some time this week/weekend, consider snuggling up with Coco the movie and watch el día de muertos come to life on the screen. As we recommend with any movie-watching Spanish-practicing experience, watch the Spanish version with Spanish subtitles if you’re able to still follow along. It stretches your brain, but it’s really great Spanish practice. Otherwise, the Spanish version with English subtitles or the English version with Spanish subtitles is good practice too!
Some fun/useful video links below:
Gael Garcia Bernal on Coco & Día de Muertos
Watch the Trailers for COCO in English and Spanish …
Hayley y Maider
P.S. You may have heard the holiday referred to as día de los muertos. This is actually a back translation of the holiday in mostly Anglophone countries: Día de muertos (translates to ➡) Day of the dead (translates back to ➡) Día de los muertos. In Mexico, it’s most commonly referred to as día de muertos, without the los.