We had 5 minutos to catch up with the President of the Mexican Association in Singapore (MEXASING), Azul Aguilar Torres, and she shared some insights on the biggest traditional festival in Mexico, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
What is Día de los Muertos?
In Mexico, it is believed that the spirit of the dead visit their families at the stroke of midnight on 2nd November. This is why this day is known as “Dia de Muertos” (day of the death) and it’s the day to celebrate and remember those who have departed.
On this day in Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with decorations of papel picado and the traditional cempazuchitl flowers (marigolds). The families make altars (shrines) and place ofrendas (offerings) to their departed family members at home.
What will Mexasing be bringing to the Día de los Muertos party this year at Lucha Loco?
We’re collaborating with Lucha Loco to bring everyone a traditional yet very extravagant Dia de los Muertos altar with all the components that help the spirits come to us. On top of that, there’ll be a parade by the Catrinas with Mexican music. Mexasing will also be bringing traditional Mexican merchandise and treats, such as Luchador masks, Mexican toys and Mexican spicy-candy, sugar skulls, and pan de muertos (death’s bread).
How do Mexicans celebrate the day of the dead?
In order to celebrate, the families make altars (shrines) and place ofrendas (offerings) of food such as some favourite dishes of the departed, pan de muertos, sugar skulls, candles, water, salt, incense, cempazuchitl flowers, some of the favourites items or belongings from the departed and most importantly a photo of the departed soul is placed on the altar.
On this day, people also visit the cemeteries, clean and ornament the tombs, and build an altar at home with help of all the family members. It’s similar to setting up a christmas tree, families will gather and remember stories of their deceased loved ones.
What is the significance of building the shrine for day of the dead?
Each item on the altar (shrine) represents something specific, even the colours used in the decorations. Purple represents suffering, while white stands for hope. A picture of the departed is placed to call him/her home. Incense is used for purification and cleansing purposes. The flowers guide the spirits back home while the candles light the pathway. The water and salt nurture the spirits. Sugar skulls represent death in a cheerful manner, as we believe death isn’t the end but just another beginning.
La Catrina is an iconic figure, who is she?
Catrin is a well-dressed, elegant man and Catrina is the female version. The image we see during Dia de los Muertos is a dapper skeleton known as “La Catrina”, a satirical image that represents the death as something elegant rather than gloomy. Catrina's look was conceptualised by lithographer and painter José Guadalupe Posada, who is said to have designed the first La Catrina skull in the early 1900s. The elegant clothes on the skull are the artist's perception that death does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of class.
What kind of food & drinks do Mexicans eat during this holiday?
- Pan de Muertos (death’s bread)
- Sugar Skulls
- Sweet Pumpkin
- Any dish that was a favourite among the family members
- Mole is usually very popular
What does the Day of the Dead mean to you?
It was scary to know that the soul of our departed family members will come to “dine” in our house, but building the shrine with my family, sharing stories of those who left us, and all the delicious food, took away my fears. Hearing stories about the life of family members who were long gone, before I was even born, helped me understand where I came from, and taught me to value my roots and respect the life they have built before departing. It was a heartfelt experience, one that I look forward to live and share with my daughter every year!