By Jessica Camacho Rivera
Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is a holiday celebrated on November 2nd. If you don’t have any idea of what it is like, just use the movie Coco or the Book of Life as a broad guide, but for you to deeply understand its concept let me explain it to you. Although marked throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. Dia de los Muertos honors the dead with festivals and lively celebrations, a typically Latin American custom that combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadors since Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, minor holidays in the Catholic calendar.
Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
As stated before, Dia de los Muertos is marked throughout Latin America and it is celebrated in different ways. Back in my home country Ecuador, we place much emphasis on religious festivities and celebrations that November 2nd. Each year is a national public holiday in a way that everyone can have the opportunity to participate in the celebration of Dia de los Difuntos. It is pretty common to find families gathering around the graves of their deceased relatives sharing a meal at or even on the grave before leaving food for them, this can be seen more often in rural communities. In the cities, families visit cemeteries to either leave food or flowers at the graves.
Somethings that needs to be present during Dia de los Difuntos are colada morada y guaguas de pan. Colada morada is a purple corn and fruit-based sweet drink. While guaguas de pan are sweet bread shaped as babies and most of the time are stuffed with a sweet filling that can be jam, chocolate, caramel, and others. Also, they are decorated with icing. Guagua is a kichwa word that means baby or child, and just like many other kichwa words, it is actually used frequently mixed with Spanish in everyday language in Ecuador. Some people said that in the past, guaguas the pan were made from an inedible type of dough since they were meant to be used as offerings for the graves.
By being away from home, I’m definitely going to miss making guaguas de pan and colada morada with my grandma in a big pot to feed my big family, I’m going to miss sharing stories of my loved ones that passed away, and I’m definitely going to miss the time that I spend with my family reconnecting with my ancestors. However, I will keep the tradition here and I will keep the opportunity to remember my loved ones who passed away and most importantly remember my roots.