Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of those who have passed to reunite through food, drink and celebration. This is a blend of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture, that has been celebrated each year from November 1 – November 2. Here at IMAS, we embrace and celebrate with our Día de los Muertos festival every year, while also showcasing our community altares.
Our annual altares offers a deeper appreciation into tradition, culture, and community. This year we have partnered with many organizations around the valley to set up ofrendas to an Innovative Latinx who has inspired or contributed to their community. We have altars set up from Chavela Vargas, an influential Mexican-Puerto Rican musician, to Alexis Selene Reyes, who inspired Earth Angel Foundation in support of children with disabilities. These altars not only honor those souls who have passed but provide the space and community to talk about their lives.
Día de los Muertos is celebrated all throughout Mexico, and everyone has their own way of setting up altars and celebrating. Creating the altars is not only symbolic to the person being honored but also to the beliefs and traditions. You will usually see altars being set up with 3 to 7 tiers, depending on the location. Here at IMAS, we were able to create a 3-tier altar! The top tier is decorated to identify who is being invited to the altars. You will find this tier with photos of those being honored. The second tier is to welcome the dead and make them feel comfortable. Here is where you might find objects that were important to the deceased! This includes offerings such as their favorite foods, mole, tamales, sweets and the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead). For altars calling on deceased adults, servings of tequila or mezcal are common and for children, their favorite toy is included in the display. The third tier is set up so that the returning dead can refresh themselves upon arrival at the altar. A towel and a basin of water can often be found here with a bit of salt. Many candles adorn this tier and cleansing copal incense are lit, which is said to ward away evil spirits. The combined decorations represent the four elements, which unify the living with the spirit world.