Día De Los Muertos: Culture and COVID-19


Día de los Muertos, a traditional Mexican holiday that holds meanings that are near and dear to the hearts of the people who celebrate it. Día de los Muertos is more than just sugar skulls and candy, this sacred holiday is a lot more than superficial bright colors. El Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead in English takes place from November 1st to November 2nd. Día de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico even though it is celebrated in other Latin American countries. Día de los Muertos understands that death is a part of the natural life cycle, and the members who celebrate it believe that the deceased would rather have their living relatives celebrate their life.

This is the reason why Día de los Muertos is an expression of culture and creativity. There are live mariachi bands playing music in the cemeteries and the graves in the cemeteries are brightly decorated. Women might even dress up as Catrinas which are a specific type of calavera (or skeleton) dressed in special clothing from the early 20th century. In addition, there are well dressed ofrendas which hold offerings to the deceased relatives; these ofrendas represent fire, water and earth. Beautiful perforated paper called papel picado on the altar represents air. Ultimately, the Día de los Muertos is a beautiful scene with live music, Catrinas, beautiful ofrendas and marigolds covering the whole cemetery.

With the coronavirus striking the United States hard, everyone from every walk of life has lost someone. As a result of the pandemic the Mexican authorities have decided to close all cemeteries, which means that Día de los Muertos in 2020 looks a lot different compared to other years. Normally, families take time to dress the graves of loved ones and some families even choose to sleep next to the tombs of their loved ones.

Back in the United States, Catalina Marcelino explains in an interview with NBC news how her Día de los Muertos will look different from her normal year. First of all, Marcelino lost her Mexican father-in-law who died from coronavirus related complications. Normally, Marcelino spends the days before November making signature Mexican dishes, such as tamales or mole. Marcelino would love to spend Día de los Muertos with her whole extended family and properly celebrate her father-in-law’s life. Marcelino will have to forego the standard large celebration and will have to settle for a smaller celebration. Marcelino has decorated her ofrenda with some of his favorite things and tries to do things that will honor her family.

Magaly Saenz also tells her story about her Día de los Muertos to CNN. Saenz is a co-owner at the Tres Leches Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona. To aid her community during the pandemic she created a community ofrenda at her store so the community can come together to honor their loved ones who have passed. Saenz is aware of the current pandemic and has made sure that the ofrenda is able to maintain social distancing. During the interview Saenz said, "We know a lot of our community has lost a loved one due to Covid. We want to be able to build an ofrenda large enough so that everyone can come and honor their loved ones and maintain their memory."

In the end Día de Los Muertos is a beautiful and significant tradition to many people across the United States. It is an expression of creativity with music and colorfully decorated monuments. The holiday itself is a beautiful way to represent the cycle of life and death. Like all other parts of life, the current pandemic has impacted this sacred holiday. Every community should try to support each other during these troubling and uncertain times, and to come together to celebrate the lives that we lost and to heal as communities together.


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