Celebrating Día de los Muertos with friends: Presley’s Pantry

Día de los Muertos was this past week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.

Today, I’m sharing the altar of my friend Nicole Presley from Presley’s Pantry.

Nicole Presley from Presley's Pantry made this altar for Día de los Muertos 2012. PHOTO/COURTESY OF NICOLE PRESLEY

Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
My family is from Juarez- Chihuahua, and Tijuana. A mixed-bag of Mexican border towns.

Who does your altar honor?
My altar honors my uncle Robert. He’s the first person in my immediate family to pass on. His death strongly impacted all my living loved ones. We miss him dearly and hope that he appreciates his offerings. It also honors my fiance’s father Alfonso, who passed two years ago. 

Any special ofrendas or items on your altar?
I always put a shot of Vodka on the alter for my uncle. He loved having a good time and vodka was his drink of choice. Since he was a figurine artist, I make sure to include one of his pieces of work. His daughter is also a great artist and I include one of her pieces on his altar, knowing he would be so proud of her accomplishments as an artist. For Alfonso, I include coins and cookies. He had a huge coin collection in his days on this earth and they were one of the things that made him the happiest. 

Why do you make an altar for Día de los Muertos? How does it keep your connected to Mexican culture?
I make my alter in remembrance of my Tio. A way to celebrate his life and hope that where ever he is now he is able to know that we love him and miss him. And if all else fails…. At least he can enjoy his vodka. Then a few years ago when my fiances father passed, we started to celebrate his life through the alter as well. On November 2nd we play music all day long to celebrate this honorable men.

Celebrating Día de los Muertos with friends: Mama Latina Tips

Día de los Muertos was this week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.

Today, I’m sharing the altar of my friend Silvia Martinez from Mamá Latina Tips.

An altar for Día de los Muertos in Guanajuato, Mexico. PHOTO/COURTESY OF SILVIA MARTINEZ

Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
My family is from Guanajuato, a beautiful state in central Mexico. Before I moved to the U.S., I don’t recall participating much in the type of Day of the Dead celebrations that have become so popular recently. What we do is this: each year my family goes to the cemetery, with literally thousands of others, to place flowers on the graves of family members and clean up around the grave site. There is usually music and even food—it feels more festive that one might think—and then we go to Mass. Since living in California with my own family, the desire to share this particular part of my culture with my boys has increased. We just spent Day of the Dead in Mexico and it was both fun and fascinating.

Who does your altar honor?
We didn’t prepare an altar this year at home; however, the boys had two at school, and we really enjoyed walking downtown to see all the beautiful altars displayed by both students and families.  At school, their altars honored a patron saint of the school and a friend of the school’s who recently passed. There was a contest in El Jardin (the central court in the city), where we saw everything from pre-hispanic altars, to traditional altars, to modern altars. Many of the students’ altars came with explanations of the symbolism behind their ofrendas and some history of the Day of the Dead tradition, so we learned a lot.
What do you typically put on your altar?
As I mentioned, we didn’t have our own altar this year, but typical items include, an image of a saint dear to the family, bread, salt for purification, fruit, images of souls in purgatory, candles, and favorite belongings of family who have passed.

How has celebrating Día de los Muertos in Mexico this year been different for you than the way you celebrate it in the U.S.? Have you noticed anything interesting or different than what you remember it being like from when you were growing up in Mexico?
I would love to share something that I haven’t seen before, as it seems to be a new tradition in my pueblo. On the night of November 1st, families go out into la calle (what we call the streets downtown) and kids carry bags and ask for candy just like on Halloween in the U.S., but instead of saying “trick-or-treat,” they say “Mi calaverita” (which means “my little skeleton”). Also, a lot of women dress up as Catrinas, some with elaborate dresses and hats. Catrinas have been a symbol of Day of the Dead for a long time and I think it is just beautiful seeing them embrace and expand on this tradition.

For more photos and a story from Silvia about celebrating Día de los Muertos in Mexico, click here to go over to Mamá Latina Tips.

Celebrating Día de los Muertos with friends: Sweet Life Bake

Día de los Muertos is this week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.

Today, I’m sharing the altar of my friend Vianney Rodriguez from Sweet Life Bake.

Vianney Rodriguez from Sweet Life Bake's Día de los Muertos altar for 2012. PHOTO/COURTESY OF VIANNEY RODRIGUEZ

Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
Both my mom and father are from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Who does your altar honor?
My altar honors my Uncle who died in Vietnam and both of my grandfathers.

Any special ofrendas or items on your altar?
I have a small metate which represents the one given to me by my grandfather, and whose mother gave it to him. I also have original Día de Los Muertos artwork by local Texan artists from San Antonio, McAllen, Edinburg and Houston. My main is altar is very small, but in every room I display objects or art that family members, my husband and children have gifted me over the years. Dia de Los Muertos is my favorite holiday and they shower me with gifts they find along the way in their travels.

Why do you make an altar for Día de los Muertos? How does it keep your connected to Mexican culture? And do you involve your kids to pass on the tradition?
I make my altar to honor my family. My altar keeps me connected to my childhood summers spent in Mexico with my grandfathers. I did not have the honor to meet my uncle, so every year as I begin to display my altar I read the letters he wrote from Vietnam to my daughters. I involve my daughters in every step of putting together our altar. We make papel picado, paper marigolds and they help me to decorate the table, arrange the flowers for the grave sites and help me in the kitchen as we prepare the meals that will honor our loved ones.

For more photos and a story about how Vianney celebrates Día de los Muertos, click here to go over to Sweet Life Bake.

Who celebrates Día de los Muertos in the United States?

Though Día de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated in Mexico, the changing landscape of the United States means that a lot more people are celebrating Day of the Dead on this side of the border. According to a study released in 2012 by the Pew Hispanic Center about Hispanic origin profiles of those living in the United States (whether U.S. born or foreign born), people with Mexican ancestry or who are Mexican by birth make up nearly 65 percent of all Hispanics in the U.S.

Of course, this makes us happy at The Other Side of The Tortilla because it means there are a lot of people like us who are looking to stay connected to their heritage whether by food, culture or traveling to Mexico (or at least reading about it).

Golin Harris, a worldwide public relations agency, recently conducted a nationwide survey of Hispanic adults.

Here are their findings:

  • 28 percent of the people surveyed said they celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
  • The top three ways in which people celebrate this holiday include buying or baking pan de muerto (25 percent), visiting a cemetary (21 percent) and building an altar (17 percent).
  • The top five reasons why people said they celebrate Day of the Dead include family togetherness (52 percent), maintaining traditions (51 percent), the food associated with the traditions (46 percent), teaching the traditions to their children (39 percent) and having the ability to share the best of both worlds of their Latino and American heritage (37 percent).
  • Where are people celebrating Día de los Muertos? Of those surveyed, 37 percent lived in the West, 29 percent in the Northeast, 27 percent in the Midwest and 21 percent in the South of the United States.

Keep reading for a cool infographic that Golin Harris shared with us…… 

Read More »

Celebrating Día de los Muertos with friends: Unknown Mami

Día de los Muertos is this week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.

Today, I’m sharing the altar of my friend C. from Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami's altar for Día de los Muertos 2012. It's the first time she's ever made one.PHOTO/COURTESY OF UNKNOWN MAMI

Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
My family is from Mexicali.

Who does your altar honor?
My altar honors my daughters’ grandfather, two friends, my tía, my tío, two primos, and my nana (abuela).

Any special ofrendas or items on your altar?
There is cerveza for my tío (he wasn’t picky, so any will do), cards for solitaire for my nana, cologne for my daughters’ grandfather, mazapan and eyeliner (she was out of it the last time I saw her) for my tía, and flowers and candles for everyone.

Why did you make an altar for Día de los Muertos? How does it keep your connected to Mexican culture? And do you involve your kids to pass on the tradition?
This was my very first Día de los Muertos altar and it made me feel more connected to my culture and family because it brought back memories of my youth and it helped me bond with loved ones I’ve missed. It was a joy to remember them and share their stories with my daughters. My daughters are very young and never got a chance to meet any of the people we are honoring, but now they will hear about them every year.

Any other details you want to share about your altar?
It never occurred to me that I would have so much fun putting together an altar, that I would remember the idiosyncrasies and likes of my departed.

For more photos and a story about Unknown Mami’s altar for Día de los Muertos, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: Las Catrinas

In September, I went on a quest for some new decorations to add to my altar for Día de los Muertos. I headed to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where I also do most of my grocery shopping in the Mexican markets. The Tzintzuntzán gift shop at the museum never disappoints me and this time was no exception. I’ll be sharing more photos in a few days from the museum, which also has a Día de los Muertos exhibit running through December 16, but here’s a photo of the little Catrinas that I bought to place on my altar.

They’re modeled after Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada’s la calavera de la Catrina and stand about three inches tall, not including the little feather plume that sticks out of the hat.

Que lindas las Catrinas, no?

  • Do you have any unique decorations for Día de los Muertos? Tell me about them in the comments and where they came from.
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