How Day of the Dead helps me find peace after losing loved ones
Dia de Los Muertos is the one day of the year in Mexican culture when the spirits of the dead are allowed passage back to the land of the living. During this time, we build altars and fill them with photos of our deceased loved ones and all the things they loved. All to celebrate the life they lived and the memories that we cherish. This tradition lets us keep them alive not only wherever their souls rest but inside our hearts and memories.
For many years, my family didn’t celebrate this holiday because of the pressure of being Americanized to avoid blatant racism during certain relatives’ childhoods. Though with the release of movies such as The Book of Life and Coco, my family members found themselves embracing the holiday that American society had tried to take from them. It began when my grandmother built a small altar in her house. There she placed a statue of the Virgin Mary and a photo of my Tata with a candle that would never go out if she was in the house.
Last year was the first year I built my own small altar in my apartment. I placed a simple cloth and put photos of my Tata, Nana, Tio, Padrino, and my first dog, Metiche. I also wrote them letters explaining to them how much I missed them and how things have been since they departed. It was as if I was sending them a letter to let them know how life was going. November 2nd, the actual day we celebrate the Day of the Dead, I painted my face in a sugar skull fashion and celebrated by going to eat with friends and sharing memories of those who had passed on.
This year, the process will be the same as last year, except with a new addition. Alex, a high school friend who sadly passed away last year after taking his life, is the new face on the altar. Even though it saddens me to have to add a new photo, the holiday helps in healing — especially as the one-year anniversary approaches and we attempt to remember him. Not in the way he passed on, but in the way he was before his sudden passing.
When you celebrate a person as they lived and not how they died it helps to learn to move past their death. Dia de Los Muertos means a lot to me and many other Latinos because it helps to not only remember people that have passed on but helps you feel at peace with it. You celebrate them as they were as a person, you celebrate their life, and the impact they left on yours.
Christina D. Lugo is a senior at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing, feeding raccoons and petting dogs.