Color and cut out these skulls



Color and cut out these skulls
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 1
6/7/07 2:00:09 PM
The Day of the Dead
Welcome to El Día de Los Muertos
It is late October or early November.
The warm summer sun has eased and
cool breezes brush your cheek. The air
smells a bit different too, and the leaves
have begun to change color or drop from
the trees. Walking toward the city park
you hear music and the rhythm of drums.
As you enter the park, you stop, startled
by the most unusual event you have ever
seen. Dancing to the beat of drums are
two life size figures wearing brilliantly
decorated masks — skull masks.
Wild hair and colorful ribbon fly in the
breeze with each dance step. The skulls
are smiling broadly. Brightly colored
flowers decorate the skulls’ cheekbones,
jewels sparkle from foreheads and
flowered hats sit atop their flying hair.
More grinning skulls are carried on long
poles by happy, laughing people.
El Día de Los Muertos
When the Spaniards came to that land
their beliefs slowly began to merge with
the peoples they found there and the
celebration continued. The theme of El
Día de Los Muertos is universal
It is about people remembering the
people we love who have passed from
this life.
It is about remembering that as
rich as we are, as beautiful as we are,
underneath we are all the same. I can’t
see how much money you have and you
can’t see how powerful I am if we see
each other as skeletons.
El Día de Los Muertos is a day of joy,
a day for remembering. We hope you will
enjoy learning more about this special
Meet La Catrina Calavera
dalupe Po
José Gua
Written by
Pat Oso
Designed by
Jeanne Rissi
Spanish translation
Eric Healy
Heard Museum
Gina Laczko
Artwork throughout
Susan Olivier-Hirasawa
Pentewa Interactive Software for
reproduction of art from “Day of the
Dead” interactive classroom software
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 2
The smells of tamales and hot
chocolate fill the air. Colorful booths are
scattered here and there.
Something that looks like a shrine
or altar sits near the center of the park.
Photographs of people are displayed on it
surrounded by flowers, candles, plates of
food and beautiful paper cut-outs.
This doesn’t look like a Halloween
party. There’s no Grim Reaper anywhere.
No Frankensteins, cobwebs, bleeding
monsters or demons can be seen. No
spooky noises or creaking doors can be
heard. No one is trying to scare anybody.
In fact, little children are actually holding
the skeleton dancers hands and laughing.
Welcome to El Día de Los Muertos
or The Day of the Dead. This holiday is
ancient in origin coming from the tribal
peoples of the place we now call Mexico.
Allow us to introduce you to La
Catrina. She is the most famous
character of Día de Los Muertos.
Dressed in her finery, complete with
a broad-brimmed hat trimmed in
feathers, with flowers and ribbons
where her hair used to be, she looks
ready for a party. Her smiling face is
so joyful that she puts you in the mood for
a celebration. La Catrina is seen everywhere in Día
de Los Muertos celebrations.
Her face is cut into papel picado. Some dancers
wear masks of her face. This smiling character
represents the colorful, joyful relationship the
Mexican people have with death. It is difficult to
look at La Catrina and believe that life could
ever end.
La Catrina was created by José Guadalupe
Posada. (1852-1913) Posada is a very famous
Mexican artist whose woodcuts show his fine sense
of humor and strong opinions about the times in
which he lived.
Leonardo Linares is the son of a famous artist. In
fact everyone in his family is an artist. Leonardo
created a life-size papier-mâché sculpture of La
Catrina and her husband Catrin. This sculpture
is so famous that we put it on the cover of this
supplement. When you look at La Catrina, you can
imagine what she might have looked like in life. Try
to imagine her walk or the sound of her laughter.
What made her happy or sad? La Catrina will be
your guide as you learn more about her favorite
holiday, El Día de Los Muertos.
When we look at La Catrina we can imagine what she might have been like in life
from the way that she is dressed. If a family member or friend wanted to dress
a skeleton to show your personality or hobbies, what type of clothing or other
items would they choose? Look through the pictures in today’s newspaper. Cut out
words, or pictures of clothing or objects that could be used to dress your skeleton.
Remember that the pictures or words need to represent your personality or hobbies.
For example, a skeleton dressed in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat might have loved
riding horses in life. A skeleton holding a wooden spoon and wearing a chef's hat
and apron might have enjoyed cooking and a kitchen filled with family laughter. How
would you dress a skeleton to represent the members of your family?
6/7/07 2:00:31 PM
The Day of the Dead
Does your
What kinds
of decorations
do you use?
the ads in the
Can you
find an
for something
you might
want to
use to
celebrate a
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 3
Day of the Dead celebration.
The Day or Days of the Dead are celebrated all
over Mexico. Each state and even each village in
Mexico has its own variation of the celebration.
Some parts are the same everywhere. Flowers,
especially marigolds and coxcombs, are always
The Day of the Dead in the United States
In the twentieth century, many people from
central and southern Mexico began to move
north, in search of industrialized areas where
there were jobs. Many moved to the southern
part of the United States. Sometimes, young men
came alone. They worked to bring their families
north to join them. It was difficult to travel back
to home villages to visit the cemeteries where
relatives were buried. Celebrating Día de Los
Muertos in this new country was difficult too.
Many things that were so easy to buy in Mexico
to celebrate this holiday could not be found in
stores in the United States. Most people in this
country did not understand the holiday. It seemed
odd and even frightening. Sadly, some people
make fun of things they do not understand.
Sometimes these people are very cruel. For a
long time people from Mexico who were living
in the United States did not celebrate Día de Los
Muertos and they missed their special holiday.
By the 1970s, there were over two million
people of Mexican descent living in the Los
Angeles area. In 1972, two Chicano artists
decided to organize a Día de Los Muertos
celebration in their community cemetery. The
festival consisted of a parade and cemetery visit.
From this modest event, the celebration grew
until it is a huge celebration including a parade
and fiesta involving several thousand people.
Now Día de Los Muertos festivals are celebrated
in many cities throughout the United States. The
festival is a celebration of family and cultural
Día de Los Muertos en los Estados Unidos
En el siglo veinte, muchas personas del
centro y sur de México empezaron a inmigrar
al norte, en busca de zonas industrializadas
en las que podían encontrar trabajo. Muchos
se fueron a la parte sur de los Estados Unidos.
A veces llegaban hombres jóvenes solos.
Trabajaban para poder traer a sus familias
a vivir con ellos. Para ellos era difícil viajar
de regreso a sus pueblos para visitar los
cementerios en los que estaban enterrados sus
parientes. Celebrar el Día de Los Muertos en
este país nuevo era también difícil. Muchas
de las cosas que se compraban fácilmente
en México para celebrar este día no podían
encontrarse en las tiendas en los Estados
Unidos. La mayoría de la gente en este país no
entendía esta celebración. Parecía rara y hasta
aterradora. Desafortunadamente, la gente
se burla de lo que no entiende. A veces estas
personas pueden ser muy crueles. Durante
mucho tiempo, los mexicanos que vivían en
los Estados Unidos no celebraron el Día de
Los Muertos y no tenían esta celebración tan
En la década de 1970, en la zona de
Los Angeles vivían más de dos millones de
personas de origen mexicano. En 1972, dos
artistas chicanos decidieron organizar una
celebración del Día de Los Muertos en el
cementerio de su comunidad. La celebración
consistió en un desfile y una visita al
cementerio. A partir de este acontecimiento
modesto, la celebración creció hasta llegar a ser
una celebración enorme que incluye un desfile
y una fiesta en la que participan varios miles
de personas. Ahora, los festivales del Día de
Los Muertos se celebran en muchas ciudades
en todo los Estados Unidos. Esta fiesta es una
celebración de la familia y la herencia
El Día de Los Muertos
El Día de los Muertos es un festival de bienvenida
para el alma de los difuntos. Los vivos preparan la
celebración con mucho esmero. Creen que el alma de
los difuntos regresa cada año por unas cuantas horas a
disfrutar los placeres que conocían en vida. La celebración
no es triste, sino llena de alegría y emoción.
Los primeros habitantes de México consideraron
la vida y la muerte como una sola cosa, muy
semejante al día y la noche. Pensaban que ambas
cosas eran naturales y que no podían separarse. Cuando
los españoles llegaron a México, trajeron consigo sus
creencias respecto a los muertos. Los españoles
creían que la muerte era el inicio verdadero de la
vida, de la vida eterna. Las creencias de estos dos
pueblos empezaron a entremezclarse y la muerte empezó
a verse como algo tan natural como la vida misma. La
relación amistosa de la gente con la muerte puede
verse claramente en la celebración del Día de Los
El Día de Los Muertos se celebra en todo México.
Cada estado y aún, cada poblado en México tiene su
propia variante de la celebración. Algunas partes
son iguales en todos lados. Las flores, especialmente
los zempaxúchitl o zempoales y las crestas de gallo
son siempre importantes. Se hornea un pan especial y se
preparan algunos alimentos especiales como el mole, los
tamales y algunos dulces. Hay papel picado y juguete
con calaveras y esqueletos, así como calaveras de
La celebración es un acontecimiento familiar de
importancia. Se considera que los muertos son parte de
la familia y el Día de Los Muertos es una reunión
familiar anual. La gente limpia, pinta y decora
las tumbas de los parientes fallecidos. Las personas
visitan los cementerios y muchas veces permanecen allí
toda la noche, comiendo y bebiendo, jugando y oyendo
música. En los hogares, se construyen altares en
los que se colocan ofrendas para los muertos. Los
miembros de la familia pasan semanas enteras
preparando la celebración y viajan grandes distancias
para estar en casa en esta época.
The Day of the Dead
How would
you feel if
you moved
to a new
country and
made fun
of your
Artwork courtesy of Susan Olivier-Hirasawa, Pentewa Interactive Educational Software
important. Special bread is baked and certain
foods like mole, tamales, and sweets are prepared.
Skulls and skeletons are found in paper cut outs,
puppets, toys, and sugar forms.
The celebration is an important family event.
The dead are considered to be a part of the family,
and the Day of the Dead is an annual family
reunion. People clean, repaint, and decorate
the tombs of deceased relatives. They visit the
cemeteries and often stay all night, picnicking,
playing games, and listening to music. In the home,
altars are constructed where offerings for the
dead are placed. Family members spend weeks
preparing for the celebration, and travel great
distances to be at home at this time.
El Día de Los Muertos
What special
holidays do
we celebrate
in the United
The Day of the Dead is a festival of welcome
for the souls of the dead. The celebration is
prepared by the living who take great delight in the
task. They believe that the souls of the dead return
each year for a few hours to enjoy the pleasures
they once knew in life. The celebration is not sad.
In fact, it is joyous and exciting.
The first peoples of Mexico saw life and
death as one thing, much like night and day.
They believed the two are natural and cannot be
separated. When the Spaniards came to Mexico,
they brought their beliefs about death with them.
The Spanish believed that death was the true
beginning of life, eternal life. The beliefs of these
peoples began to flow together and death came
to be seen as natural as life itself. The peoples’
friendly relationship with death can be seen in the
6/7/07 2:00:34 PM
The Day of the Dead
La ofrenda
El Día de Los Muertos
Photo courtesy of the Heard Museum
Ofrenda honoring Mother Teresa.
The Offering
In many areas of Mexico, the preparation
for Día(s) de Los Muertos takes place all
year long. It is traditional for the family to
acquire as many new items for this time as
possible: everything from new cooking pots
to new clothing. The markets are filled with
flowers, breads, fruits, vegetables, candles,
sugars and sweets, toys, and incense. Traders
sell special ceramics, baskets, wooden
utensils, paper puppets, papel picado, and so
on. All of these things are given as gifts to the
Although ofrendas differ greatly in various
parts of Mexico, by October 30 or 31, the
offering (la ofrenda) will be set up in every
home. It is usually a table, covered with a
decorated cloth. Above and behind the table
is a display of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and
many other ornaments. A “sky” (cielo) is
made by hanging a sheet or strings of papel
picado over la ofrenda. Religious statues
or holy pictures are placed on the table,
along with candles, incense burners, vases
of flowers, and photographs of deceased
In some places the souls of children are
said to return first. Often, a special ofrenda
is made just for them, with everything in
miniature: small cups, plates, and miniature
pan de muertos. Special foods are prepared
for the young souls, which is not spicy like
the adult food. On November 1, the adult
souls return. Large quantities of foods are
set out for them: mole, tamales, chalupas,
enchiladas, dulce de calabaza (candied
pumpkin), water, coffee, chocolate, and
atole (made from cornmeal and flavoring)
are the necessary ones, but favorite foods
of the deceased are prepared as well. There
are stories about sad, lost souls who wander
the streets of a village if their families have
forgotten to prepare la ofrenda for them.
Some families set an additional place at the
dinner table rather than on la ofrenda. In
large cities, communal ofrendas are created
in public buildings, including museums.
How much do you know about the likes and dislikes of the people in your family? What
kinds of things will you always remember about your family? Try this activity and see how much
you can learn about your family.
Make a list of your family members. Next to each name write at least two of the following:
A favorite food(s), color(s), TV show, activity, book, and possession. Now write down one funny
or nice thing you can remember about each person. This might be something this person or did or
something funny that happened to this person.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 4
En muchas partes de México,
los preparativos para el Día de Los
Muertos se llevan a cabo durante todo
el año. Es tradición que la familia
adquiera tantos artículos nuevos para
esta época como le sea posible: todo,
desde ollas hasta ropa nueva. Los
mercados están llenos de flores, panes,
frutas, verduras, velas, azúcar y dulces,
juguetes e incienso. Los comerciantes
venden objetos especiales de cerámica,
canastas, utensilios de madera,
marionetas de papel, papel picado y
muchas cosas más. Todos estos objetos
se ofrecen como regalos par los muertos.
Aunque las ofrendas difieren en
gran medida en varias partes de
México, por allí del 30 o 31 de octubre,
en cada hogar se pondrá una ofrenda.
Esta consiste generalmente en una
mesa cubierta con un mantel decorado.
Encima y detrás de la mesa, se exhiben
flores, frutas, verduras y muchos otros
adornos. Se hace un “cielo" colgando
una hoja o una sarta de papel picado
sobre la ofrenda. En la mesa se colocan
estatuillas o imágenes religiosas, junto
con velas, incienseros, jarrones con
flores y fotografías de los parientes que
han fallecido.
En algunos lugares se dice que el
alma de los niños regresa primero.
Frecuentemente, se hace una ofrenda
especial para ellos, en la que todo es
en miniatura: tazas y platos pequeños
y panes de muertos miniatura. Se
preparan alimentos especiales para
las almas jóvenes, que no son picosos
como los alimentos para los adultos.
Las almas de los adultos regresan el
1st de noviembre. Se les deja grandes
cantidades de alimentos tales como
mole, tamales, chalupas, enchiladas,
dulce de calabaza, agua, café,
chocolate, y atole (hecho de nixtamal
y saborizantes) que son los alimentos
necesarios, pero también se preparan
los platillos favoritos del difunto. Hay
historias de almas tristes y perdidas
que deambulan por las calles de un
pueblo si sus familias han olvidado
prepararles la ofrenda. Algunas
familias ponen un sitio adicional en
la mesa para la cena en lugar de la
ofrenda. En las ciudades grandes se
colocan ofrendas comunes en edificios
públicos, incluso en museos.
6/7/07 2:00:37 PM
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 5
Famous People
Special Causes
Cesar Chavez
Martin Luther King Jr.
Jaques Cousteau
Mother Theresa
Sor Juana de la Cruz
Diego Rivera
Pedro Linares
Jose Guadalupe Posada
To remember those who have died in car, plane, or other accidents.
To remember those who have died fighting to preserve freedom.
To remember those who have died trying to help others.
To remember those who have died while others took away their homelands.
To remember those who have died for personal or religious beliefs.
To remember those who have died in wars.
To remember those who have died in fires, earthquakes, floods or
other natural disasters.
To remember those who have died of cancer, AIDS, diabetes or
other disease.
To remember those who have died because of drunk drivers,
abuse, or violence.
Jim Henson
Benito Juarez
Charles Schultz
Shel Silverstein
Barry Goldwater
Shari Lewis
Abraham Lincoln
Sir Alec Guinness
The Day of the Dead
Susan Olivier-Hirasawa
El Día de Los Muertos
If you live in a large city, you may learn
about a Día de Los Muertos celebration
at a local museum, park or school. In
these places you may find or help create
an ofrenda dedicated to special people
or causes. For instance some people may
want to make a special ofrenda for all the
people who have been killed in drive-by
shootings. Others may want to create an
ofrenda dedicated to a policeman who died
in the line of duty, an artist or performer, a
president or some other famous person.
Your class can create an ofrenda for
El Día de Los Muertos. You may already
know who you would like to create your
ofrenda for. If you do, gather ideas as a
class about how you will build it. How will
you decorate it? You may want to choose
some people to make paper flowers. Others
may be in charge of making papel picado.
Maybe others will make candle holders,
draw pictures or make food. Directions
and recipes for many of these activities can
be found in this supplement.
If you do not have someone or
something in mind for your ofrenda a list
of ideas is provided below. You are not
limited to these ideas. Discuss your ideas
as a class and create your ofrenda together
as a real community.
6/7/07 2:00:40 PM
The Day of the Dead
El Día de Los Muertos
Flowers have always been special
to the peoples of what is now called
Mexico, Central America and South
America. Long before the Spanish arrived
in this part of the world, native peoples
used flowers as an important part of their
ceremonies. The Aztecs wrote poetry
about the scent and loveliness of flowers.
The flowers most important to Día
de Los Muertos are yellow marigolds
and flame-red coxcomb. Other flowers
are used as well. It is important that the
flowers be fragrant, since it is the smell
that satisfies the dead and displays the
richness of the family’s offerings. In some
cases, pathways to homes are made with
flower petals, and petals are scattered
around the altar in the home and on the
freshly cleaned gravesites.
Today, women planning for a
ceremony rely on relatives and neighbors
to supply enough flowers for a festival.
Other women purchase flowers.
Sometimes flowers are made of brightly
colored crepe paper and other heavier
papers. Paper is also used to make
“flower” garlands: little pleated florets are
strung on twine and three inch lengths of
drinking straws cover the twine between
the flowers.
Photo courtesy of Gina Laczko at the Heard Museum
A grave in Mexico decorated with flowers.
Make Your Own Flowers for Día
• Take four sheets of tissue paper and stack them together neatly
• Starting at one end fold the paper like an accordion using one inch pleats
• Wrap one end of a green pipe cleaner around the middle of the folded
paper to make the stem
• Gently pull the layers of the accordion pleats apart
Papel Picado
People all over the world make paper cut outs. The
paper may be made of bark, parchment, deer skin, or
papyrus and can be cut with knives, chisels, razors, or
scissors. In ancient times, the people of Mexico used
bark paper as offerings to the gods and for decorating
temples and palaces on feast days. Ceremonial
costumes were made of paper and worn by the priests.
For the national holiday of Día de Los Muertos,
colorful tissue paper cut outs called papel picado are
made as part of la ofrenda. Since the dead return to
visit the living during this celebration, it is important
that they be welcomed with ceremony, respect, and
humor. The paper cut outs are colorful, and often
portray skeletons dancing, walking the dog, or doing
other everyday activities. Papel picado are also used at
Christmas, birthdays, and other celebrations.
Making Papel Picado
Flat, colored tissue paper
(18” x 24” is a good size)
Sharp scissors with points
There are several folds that can be used. This is one of the easiest. After the
class has experimented with this one, you can discover other folding patterns!
The one thing to remember is that the “string fold” (described in step #1 below) is always the same
and is always done first.
1. Select one sheet of tissue paper. Fold down the top edge (the long
edge) about one inch. This is the “string fold” which is used to hang the
papel picado. You must keep this fold in view all the time and never cut
any part of it. The string for hanging will be
attached later.
2. Turn the tissue paper over, so that the short flap is face-down on the table.
You are now ready to begin the folding for the design.
3. Fold the tissue paper in half, like you are turning the pages of a book.
Keep the edges in line every time you make a fold. The “string flap” is now folded in half as well, and
the flap is showing on both sides.
4. Fold the paper in half two more times. Remember to keep the edges in line.
5. Cut along the bottom. Then cut along the side that is completely folded.
Notice that one folded side is completely folded and one side has the two
unfolded edges. You can use any pattern for cutting
the design that is a mirror image: diamonds, crosses,
tulips, circles, etc.
6. When the folded edge is cut, unfold only one fold. The two side edges can
now be held free. Another completely folded, uncut edge is revealed. Cut
a design along this edge. The same design can be used, but many people
prefer to cut a different pattern.
7. When this cut is completed, the entire piece is carefully unfolded to reveal the design. A string is
then stapled into the initial fold so that the papel picado can be hung.
8. Another favorite folding pattern is the accordion fold. After completing Steps #1 and #2, the folded
edge is brought up to meet the raw edge of the “string flap.” This is repeated several times. Then, cuts
are made along the folded edges.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 6
6/7/07 2:00:45 PM
A Noble Tradition
Pan de Muertos
Pan de muertos is a special bread which is indispensable to the celebration
Pan de muertos es un pan especial indispensable para celebrar el Día de
of the Day of the Dead. The loaves represent the souls of the dead. It is said
Muertos. Las hogazas representan el alma de los difuntos. Se dice que los
that the dead eat the spirit of the bread when they visit. The living eat the
muertos se comen el espíritu del pan cuando vienen a visitar. Los vivos de
bread itself after the festival.
comen el pan después de la celebración.
Large commercial bakeries in places like Oaxaca make
Grandes panaderías en lugares como Oaxaca hornean grandes
huge quantities of bread in oil-heated ovens. Extra bakers
cantidades de pan en hornos calentados por aceite. Se emplea a más
are employed, and they work through the night making the
panaderos, que trabajan toda la noche horneando los panes. Los hombres
loaves. Men from the village of Santo Domingo Comaltepec
del poblado de Santo Domingo Comaltepec son conocidos “maestros
are recognized as “master bakers” and most go to Oaxaca
panaderos” y durante esta época del año van a trabajar a las panaderías.
to work for the commercial bakeries at this time. Local
Las colonias de la ciudad también hornean pan, generalmente en hornos de
neighborhoods also bake bread, usually in beehive-shaped
ladrillo con forma de panales, construidos especialmente para esta tarea.
brick ovens specially constructed for the task.
En la zona de Oaxaca, se hornean tres tipos de pan para la
In the Oaxaca area, three types of pan are made for the
celebración: pan corriente, pan entrefino y pan fino de muertos.
celebration: ordinary bread (pan corriente), medium fine
Todos tienen la forma de óvalo hinchado (que se dice es la
bread (pan entrefino), and fine bread (pan de muertos
forma del alma de una persona), pero llevan ingredientes y
fino). All are shaped as a swollen oval (said to be the
decoraciones ligeramente diferentes. El pan más fino se hace con
shape of one's soul), but have slightly different ingredients
yema de huevo, canela, semillas de ajonjolí, así como harina,
and decorations. The finest bread is made from the yolks
azúcar, sal, levadura y manteca. Es de un color amarillo limón
of eggs, cinnamon, and sesame seeds, as well as flour,
pálido cuando está horneado y es el más caro de todos los panes
sugar, salt, yeast, and shortening. It is a pale lemon color
de muerto. El pan entrefino es parecido, sólo que se usa tanto
when baked, and is the most expensive of the breads. The
clara como yema de huevo y en vez de canela, se le agrega anís.
medium bread is similar, but whole eggs are used instead of just the yolks,
El pan corriente no lleva huevos y no se esponja mucho. Todos los panes
and anise is substituted for cinnamon. Ordinary bread is made without eggs
de muerto se decoran con adornos de harina y agua, así como con caritas
and does not rise very much. All breads are decorated with flour and water
decorations as well as tiny human heads (caritas).
En otras partes de México, el pan de muertos tiene forma de persona o
In other areas of Mexico, pan de muertos is baked in the shape of
algún animal y su superficie se espolvorea con azúcar de colores. Cada región
humans or animals and sprinkled with colored sugar. Each region of
de México tiene su propia variación de pan de muertos.
Mexico has its own variation of pan de los muertos.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 7
The Day of the Dead
Pan de Muertos
El Día de Los Muertos
La Purissima is a Mexican bakery located in Glendale, Arizona.
When you walk through the door, the first thing you notice is how
different it is from the bakeries you may be used to. Everything is
fresh! Nothing is sliced or wrapped in cellophane. Cookies, breads and
pastries of all shapes, textures and colors fill glass cases. The aroma is
wonderful and your mouth begins to water.
Like many Mexican bakeries, La Purissima is family owned and
operated. This bakery is the family business of Juan and Maricela
Arellano. Juan and his son José are bakers just like Juan's father and
grandfather. Baking is a proud and noble tradition among the Mexican
people. It is passed down from father to son and bakers
hold a great deal of prestige in their communities.
Photo courtesy of Gina Laczko at the Heard Museum
Juan and José talk about baking as an art form. They
A typical bakery found in Mexico.
rarely use molds so they must be very creative in shaping
their products. They pay attention to color, texture, weight much that they sell it every weekend during October and everyday during
the week before the holiday. Maricela says that people in the big cities
and flavor. Everything is done by hand and is made fresh
of Mexico come to shops to buy their bread and pastries. But in small
everyday. The front of the shop may be open only during
villages, the baker fills a large basket with his baked goods. This basket is
business hours, but someone is baking 24 hours per day.
attached to a bicycle. A delivery person then rides through the streets of
This is hard and demanding work. Juan says they work
the village ringing the bicycle bell to let everyone know it is time to buy
these hours to meet the needs of their customers. “I care
about the people,” he says. “If you don't do things with
Maricela says that she has come to know most of the families who
love, no matter what you do, it doesn't come out right.
come to their bakery over the years. Those who were children
What you feel, it affects what you do.”
first opened the doors of La Purissima now bring their
Juan, Maricela, José and the rest of their family must
children and grandchildren. “When the store front is full of people, that's
put a great deal of love into what they do, because the
what gives me the best feeling,” says Juan. “The people make all the hours
front of their little shop is often full of people buying their
and hard work worthwhile.”
favorite treats. The shop is especially full around holidays.
Like the bakeries in Mexico, La Purissima has become a special part
Juan and his family bake pan de muerto for El Día de
of people's lives. Dia de Los Muertos wouldn't be the same without this
Los Muertos every year. The demand for this special
proud and noble tradition.
round bread with the skull and bones on top has grown so
6/7/07 2:00:49 PM
The Day of the Dead
José Guadalupe
From about 1868 to 1910, songs and poems (also
called calaveras) were sold in the streets of Mexico
City for a few cents, especially during the festival of
Día de Los Muertos. Many of these calaveras were
illustrated by woodcuts done by José Guadalupe Posada
(1852-1913). Posada is one of the most important Mexican
artists of the period between Independence (1821) and the
Revolution (1910). His work has inspired artists around the
world. Much of Posada's artwork focused on satirical themes,
which showed skeletons making fun of death, society, and
politics. Posada’s skeleton figures are still some of the most
popular images used for the celebration of Día de Los
Muertos. His most famous character is La Catrina.
Posada has had a profound influence on Mexican artists such as
Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, both of whom used similar
themes in their work. His influence is seen in many materials created
for the Day of the Dead.
El Día de Los Muertos
José Guadalupe Posado
Look up the definition for the
word “satire”. Why would an artist
use satire instead of writing an
opinion statement or article?
Look on the editorial pages of
today’s newspaper. What kind of
art form do you see that might
criticize the actions or policies
of political leaders, actions or
programs by government, a
problem in the community or some
other issue? Find at least two satirical cartoons in today’s
For the General
José Guadalupe Posado
General que fue de suerte
y mil acciones ganó
y sólo una la perdió
la que tuvo con la muerte;
nadie hay que al mirarle acierte
si fue un sabio o de tontera,
hoy es una calavera
con gorro en verdad montado,
y aunque esté condecorado
hoy ya no es lo que antes era.
He was a lucky general
and he won a thousand battles
and he only lost one
the one he had with death;
no one looking at him can tell
if he was a wise man or a fool,
today he is a calavera
with his cap on,
and although he is highly decorated
today he is no longer what he once was.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 8
José Guadalupe Posado
For the
Enchilada Vender
En la pulquería se sienta
Panchita la enchiladera
que hace muy buenas chalupas
pero siempre está en disputas
y le han puesto calavera.
In the tavern sits
Panchita the enchilada seller
who makes very good snacks
but she’s always arguing
so they made her a calavera.
José Guadalupe Posado
6/7/07 2:00:55 PM
Diego Rivera
A public mural in Mexico.
Photo courtesy of Gina Laczko
Martin Moreno is a modern-day muralist.
He is also a sculptor; in fact, sculpture is his
“passion”. Like Diego Rivera, Moreno feels
that it is his murals that reach the most people.
As an artist on the Arizona Commission for
the Arts, Moreno serves artist residencies in
many local schools. That means that he spends
several weeks or even months at a school
working with students to produce a mural that
is meaningful to them.
Moreno says, “Art is an instrument of
education. It bridges gaps between people in
Photo courtesy of the Heard Museum.
a non-threatening manner and gives everyone
Martin Moreno creates a mural with children in parking lot of Heard Museum.
a voice.” Martin Moreno's work can be found in
schools, parks and many other public places. For several years Martin created murals for the Día de Los Muertos festival
at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. These murals were painted with children in a museum parking lot. It was
tremendous fun for people to watch the blacktop transform into a brilliant work of art over the two days of the festival.
Martin Moreno was born in Michigan. His family celebrated Día de Los Muertos by going to the cemetery and placing
flowers and breadcrumbs on the graves. He learned this custom from his mother who was born and raised in Mexico. As a
young child he did not understand the significance of what his family was doing.
After many years studying art and the murals of Mexico, Martin learned the importance of El Día de Los Muertos and its
meaning. He also learned that it is celebrated more in the western United States and various regions of Mexico than it was
in his childhood home in Michigan. When Martin moved to Arizona 17 years ago, he began to experience these celebrations.
Now he looks forward to participating in the celebration of Día de Los Muertos every year. His favorite part is the
procession at the end of the ceremony when candles are lit and placed on an ofrenda created by local artists. For Martin,
“This is a special moment to reflect and pay homage to those who have gone before us.”
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 9
The Day of the Dead
Martin Moreno
El Día de Los Muertos
Diego Rivera is probably the most famous of Latin American
artists. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1886. He studied at the
San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Rivera also studied
in the carving workshop of José Guadalupe Posada who influenced
him greatly.
Diego Rivera believed that art belonged to everyone, not just the
educated and elite. He wanted to take the history of his people to
them through his art. He did this by painting beautiful murals on the
walls of buildings. His work can be found inside bank buildings and
museums. Diego Rivera also painted the outside walls of buildings so
that people passing by on the sidewalk could enjoy it. His style was
realistic, colorful and full of social commentary. Rivera's paintings
included the earth, the farmer, and the laborer. They portrayed the
powerful and the humble, goodness and destruction. Rivera took
great pride in his peoples' pre-Columbian past. Many of his works
show beautiful images of native peoples of his land at work, prayer,
and struggle. And, of course, Diego Rivera painted images of Día
de Los Muertos. One of his most famous is called La Ofrenda.
The skeleton is often seen in his murals as he reminds people that
beneath all our ideas, opinions, jobs and possessions, we are the
Diego Rivera died in 1957, but his influence on the artists of today
lives on.
6/7/07 2:00:57 PM
The Day of the Dead
The Art of the Linares Family
El Día de Los Muertos
Laughing skeletons and fantastic monsters fill the world of the Linares family. The Linares name is
recognized all over the world for the production of high-quality papier- mâché art. Papier-mâché is made of
shredded bits of paper (almost any kind) which are mixed with a liquid paste until it can be molded into a
desired shape. It is easy to work with, inexpensive and readily available. It is easy to paint and looks wonderful
with a glossy or matte finish.
Pedro Linares, the head of the family known as Don Pedro, had three sons, eight grandchildren and four great
grandchildren. The family works and lives together in Mexico. They are involved in the creation of beautiful
papier-mâché sculptures. Many of these pieces are life-size, especially those created for Día de Los Muertos.
Traditionally, papier-mâché was considered strictly folk art. Today the lines between folk art and fine art
become blurred when talking about the Linareses’ work due to the
quality and extraordinary creative talent of the artists.
The small children in the Linares family learn this art form in
the same way children all over the world learn — by watching the
adults. They begin by playing with wet, pasty paper, molding it into
whatever shape they wish and painting it when it dries. As their skills
increase, they help family members meet deadlines for orders and
begin to create pieces of their own. The family continued their work
after Don Pedro’s death in 1992.
In 1987, Don Pedro created a work called “Self-Portrait” showing
him en calavera (in skeleton) wearing his favorite baseball cap,
sitting next to a box filled with his creations while he paints a new
Some of the
Linareses’ most
famous pieces were
inspired by the work
of José Guadalupe
Posada. Some of
these are life-size
scenes that remind us
of Posada’s woodcuts.
They remind us of our
human weaknesses
and make us laugh at
ourselves and learn
from our mistakes. If
you turn to the cover
of this supplement,
you will see La
Catrina and her
husband Catrin. This
piece was inspired by
Posada’s work.
Pedro Linares — a self portrait.
Papier mâché skateboarder
created by a member of the
Linares Family.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 10
Linares photos reprinted by permission from the
Fowler Museum of Cultural History,
University of California, Los Angeles.
6/7/07 2:01:17 PM
El Día de Los Muertos
The Day of the Dead
These masks,
created by
Zarco Guerrero,
are worn
by dancers
and used as
puppets in Día
every year.
Zarco Guerrero
grew up in a family
that was proud of their
indigenous heritage.
Zarco’s family came
from the northern
states of Mexico. He
can trace his roots
back to a time before
Zarco holds a mask he created from wood
the Spanish arrived
there. His father was an depicting the Japanese thunder diety.
archeologist and painter Do you see the same expression on the
artist’s face?
who instilled a love of
dance, folklore and music in his children.
During the 1970s Zarco was deeply inspired to learn
more about his heritage by the work of Caesar Chavez.
He went to Mexico to learn more about indigenous
peoples and to study sculpture and muralism. Masks
caught his attention and imagination. His fascination
with masks and mask-making grew as he saw in them
the “magic to transform” a person from one thing
into another. Mask making led him to Japan where he
spent a year learning to carve traditional figures from
many types of wood. The walls of his home and studio
are covered with masks he has created or collected
from other artists all over the world. As you sit in his
living room, you are surrounded by smiling skulls with
brilliant colors, ribbons and wild, wonderful hair. This
home and these masks truly do seem to have a magic
of their own.
While in Mexico, Zarco learned about Día de Los
Muertos. “We all die a little everyday,” says Zarco.
“Life is a dance with death.” For Zarco, this is the
most important lesson of Día de Los Muertos. The
masks Zarco creates for this holiday demonstrate the
dance of life and death quite colorfully and joyfully.
At first people who do not understand seem a bit
startled and uncomfortable. It doesn’t take long before
they understand that these skulls are not sinister or
threatening. And soon, the newcomer is smiling too.
Zarco says it is wonderful to see people finding a
new way to deal with death and grief. He is glad that
his creations help keep this holiday ceremonial and
spiritual for the community. Zarco Guerrero’s masks
help keep the ancient traditions of his people alive and
bring joy and comfort to people everywhere.
Photos reprinted with permission from Zarco Guerrero.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 11
6/7/07 2:01:24 PM
The Day of the Dead
Celebrations in Other Countries in the Americas
El Día de Los Muertos
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 12
Mexico is not the only country in the Americas which
celebrates November 1 and 2 with a blending of pre-Hispanic
and Christian traditions. In fact, either November 1 or 2 is a
national holiday in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil,
Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela, Uruguay,
and Puerto Rico. In these countries as well as in Mexico, Día
de Los Muertos may also be referred to as Día de Todos Los
Santos or Todos Santos (All Saints Day), Día de Las Animas
(All Souls Day), or Día de Difuntos (Day of the Dead). The
event is usually marked by a religious holiday when special
Masses are said and a second memorial day when people
visit the cemeteries carrying candles and flowers. In many
places, it is also marked by special foods which are prepared
and “shared” with the dead.
The commemoration of the dead, and the joyful linking
of life and death, are also found in many other areas of the
world. The notion of ghosts, goblins, and witches—so much
a part of the season in the United States—is a legacy from
England, Wales, and Scotland. The concept of dangerous and
frightening dead spirits is apparently a Celtic/Druidic notion.
The combination of Christian with Celtic traditions, thus,
resulted in a fear of the dead during this season, rather than
a joyful remembrance as is found in so much of the rest of
the Americas.
Jonathan Shannon
Jonathan Shannon is a quilter, an artist who makes quilts. Over the years, his quilts have been displayed in
many countries and have won a wall full of ribbons. The theme of Día de Los Muertos inspired this talented
man and the quilt he created has touched the hearts of many throughout the world. Like the first Mexican
people who came to the United States, Shannon discovered many people did not understand Día de Los
Muertos or his quilt at first. In fact, it was not even considered for quilt shows. Judges were afraid that “it
might upset viewers”. Eventually, people began to understand the meaning of the dancing skeletons and in
1994, Amigos Muertos won Best-of-Show at the National Patchwork Championships in England.
“Amigos Muertos”
An Artist’s Statement.
“Amigos Muertos means ‘Dead Friends’ and
it is about death, not in a gloomy way, but as
a celebration of their life and our continuing
relationships. The traditional Mexican
commemoration of El Día de Los Muertos or The
Day of the Dead, is the source for the imagery in
this quilt . . .
“I chose to depict this Mexican celebration as
a memorial to all the artists who have died from
AIDS and cancer, and especially to my quiltmaker
friend Lyn Piercy who died as the quilt was being
”In quiltmaking, there is an honored tradition
of using this medium to express personal feelings
of both joy and sorrow. Making this quilt was
my way to feel close to those who have died
too young, leaving their life’s work unfinished.
For sixteen months I used my finest stitches
in their honor. It is a loving, even joyful work.
These skeletons play music and dance in a field
of flowers and vines surrounded by a border of
intricate cut-work applique. While we who are left
behind may be saddened by death, who is to say
- Jonathan Shannon
that the dead are sad?”
Used by permission of Jonathon Shannon
“Amigos Muertos” quilt created by Jonathon Shannon.
6/7/07 2:01:26 PM
Celebrations in Other Countries in the Americas
Larry Yáñez
El Día de Los Muertos
“Papel Picado en Espace” monotype created by Larry Yáñez.
Artwork used with Larry Yáñez’s permission.
The Day of the Dead
Larry Yáñez is an artist with a wonderful sense
of humor. Like José Guadalupe Posada, Larry
Yáñez shows us what he thinks about social
attitudes through humor in his art. In his monotype,
Papel Picado en Espace (Papel Picado in Space),
Larry created a space ship that looks like papel
picado. Papel picado is a lacy cut paper that is
used everywhere during Mexican celebrations as
decorations. People who are not citizens of the
United States are called aliens. Putting the two ideas
together he created Papel Picado en Espace. You
can see the cutout of a space ship along with the
traditional skulls in this piece.
Larry grew up in Yuma, Arizona. As a young boy,
he remembers Día de Los Muertos as a somber
event. It was not until he came to Phoenix, where he
received his degree in sculpture from Arizona State
University, that he experienced the joyful nature of
the holiday. He also developed a special interest
in silk-screen printing. As part of a Phoenix Sister
Cities exchange program between Arizona and the
United Kingdom, Larry went to Glasgow, Scotland to
create prints at the Glasgow Print Studio. He toured
the museums and galleries, and was surprised to
find many Día de Los Muertos pieces of art on
display as part of the permanent collection in the
Glasgow Contemporary Museum of Modern Art. The
lessons of this special holiday had struck the hearts
of people as far away as Scotland. Larry met and
worked with Scottish printers who were creating
pieces around the Día de Los Muertos theme. In
fact, he walked into one home where the artists
had become so delighted with Día de Los Muertos,
that the walls were painted brightly in pink, purple,
orange and other brilliant Mexican colors. The
house displayed numerous skulls and skeletons in
sculpture, papier-mâché, silkscreen prints, papel
picado and other art forms. Larry often notices that
“once a person grasps the meaning of Día de Los
Muertos it is as though they have opened a window
in their lives.” They want to learn more and begin
to surround themselves with artistic images that
help them remember these new and special lessons.
Coming up with new artistic ideas and introducing
people to Día de Los Muertos who have never
experienced it before are Larry Yáñez’s favorite parts
of this holiday.
“Mickey Nopal” monotype created by Larry Yáñez.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 13
6/7/07 2:01:28 PM
The Day of the Dead
Skulls and Skeletons
El Día de Los Muertos
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 14
Dolls, masks, miniature scenes, and other toys with a variety
of representations of skulls and skeletons are made out of every
possible material by artists all over Mexico for living children to
enjoy for Día de Los Muertos. These are enjoyed as much as a
stuffed animal or wind-up toy would be to many American children.
As a result the child's introduction to death is not frightening or
depressing, but natural and cheerful.
The Spanish word for skull, calavera, is also a slang term in
Mexico meaning “daredevil.” The attitude is summed up by author
Octavio Paz in The Labyrinth of Solitude: “The word death is not
pronounced in New York, Paris, or in London, because it burns the
lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it,
caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys
and his most steadfast love. True, there is perhaps as much fear in
his attitude as that of theirs, but at least death is not hidden away: he
looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain, or irony.”
Make Your Own Papier-Mâché Mask
1 balloon
lots of newspaper torn
into strips
1 large bowl
liquid laundry starch or
Sugar Skulls
People from all over Mexico travel to Toluca each year before Día
de Los Muertos to attend the sweet fair, la feria del alfenique. The most
special treats of all are sugar confections made into skeleton, animal
and human shapes. Prizes are awarded at the fair for the most
elaborate and creative sugar skulls and figurines.
Professional confectioners (candy makers) begin making the sugar
skulls in April. They prepare a sugar paste called alfenique from
refined sugar, water, lemon juice and cream of tartar. Sometimes
other ingredients are added to this mixture as well. The mixture
is formed by hand or pressed into molds. After hardening, they are
decorated with colorful soft icing, squeezed through a cone of waxed
paper. Sequins, bits of tinsel and foil paper are sometimes added
as well as flowers, hats, crowns, wings and other ornamentation.
Hundreds, if not thousands of skulls and figurines are made.
Young men often purchase the skulls as gifts for their girlfriends. The
sugar skulls are placed upon the ofrenda in the home and on graves
at the cemeteries. Large fruit and flower arrangements are made of
alfenique and adorn the altars in the churches. Many are eaten and
some are kept as decorations in museum exhibits in large cities.
flour and water
paint brushes
1. Blow up your balloon.
2. Pour the liquid starch into the big bowl. If you are
using flour and water instead, mix enough together to make a runny paste.
3.Dip strips of newspaper in the starch or paste.
4.Layer the strips onto the balloons, smoothing each strip as you go.
5.Cover the balloon completely with about 5-7 layers of newspaper strips.
6.Let dry completely.
7.When newspaper is dry, pop the balloon with a needle and cut the shape
in half lengthwise.
8.Cut out holes for the eyes.
9.Paint your mask.
Calaveras y Esqueletos
Los artesanos en todas partes de México hacen muñecas,
máscaras, escenas en miniatura y otros juguetes con una variedad
de representaciones de calaveras y esqueletos, usando todo tipo de
materiales, para que los niños disfruten el Día de Los Muertos.
Los niños mexicanos disfrutan de estos objetos tanto como muchos
niños estadounidenses disfrutarían un animal de peluche o un
juguete de cuerda. Debido a esto, los niños no se deprimen o le
temen a la muerte sino que la ven como algo natural y alegre.
La palabra calavera en español es también una palabra que en la
jerga mexicana significa “temerario”. El autor Octavio Paz resume
esta actitud en su libro El laberinto de la Soledad : “La palabra
muerte no se pronuncia en Nueva York, París, o Londres, porque
quema los labios. El mexicano, por el contrario, está familiarizado
con la muerte, bromea respecto a ella, la acaricia, duerme con ella,
la celebra; es uno de sus juguetes favoritos y su amor más constante.
Es cierto que en su actitud hay posiblemente tanto temor como en la
de ellos, pero, cuando menos la muerte no está oculta; la mira cara a
cara, con impaciencia, desdén o ironía.”
Photo courtesy of Gina Laczko at the Heard Museum.
Mexican children find sugar skulls to be a delightful treat.
Calaveras de Azúcar
La gente de todas partes de Mexico viaja a Toluca cada año antes del
Día de Los Muertos para ir a un feria de dulces llamada la feria del
alfeñique. Las golosinas más especiales son dulces de azúcar en forma
de esqueletos, así como formas de animales y humanos. En la feria se
dan premios a las calaveras y figuras de azúcar que lleven más trabajo
y que sean más creativas.
Los dulceros profesionales empiezan a hacer sus calaveras de
azúcar en abril. Preparan una pasta de azúcar llamada alfeñique de
azúcar refinada, agua, jugo de limón y cremor tártaro. A veces, se le
agregan también otros ingredientes a esta mezcla. La mezcla se moldea
a mano o se coloca en moldes. Después de que ha endurecido, se decora
con un betún blando de colores, que se aplica con un cono de papel
encerado. A veces, se añaden lentejuelas, pedazos de oropel y papel
metálico, así como flores, sombreros, coronas, alas y otros adornos. Se
hacen cientos, sino miles de calaveras y figurillas.
Los jóvenes muchas veces compran las calaveras para regalárselas
a sus novias. Las calaveras de azúcar se colocan en la ofrenda en las
casas y en las tumbas en los cementerios. Grandes arreglos de frutas y
flores hechos de alfeñique adornan los altares en las iglesias. Muchos se
comen y algunos se guardan como decoración en las exhibiciones en los
museos de las ciudades grandes.
6/7/07 2:01:30 PM
Skull & Coffin Cookies
This is not a traditional Mexican recipe, but these cookies will
be great fun to decorate and share for your own Día de Los
Muertos celebration.
To make your cookies you will need:
1.Your favorite sugar cookie recipe,
2.A rolling pin and a baking sheet,
3.A paper pattern you've drawn and cut out into
the shape of a skull, and,
4.Brightly colored icing, preferably in tubes.
Make and roll out cookie dough according to your recipe. Place the skull pattern on top of
the dough. Using a knife cut around the skull pattern and with a spatula lift the cookies onto
the baking sheet. Coffins can be made by cutting a rectangle and a smaller square.
Layer the square on the rectangle to create a “window” into the coffin, which you can then
decorate with a skull made of icing.
Once your cookies have cooled, it's time to go wild! Use tubes of brightly colored icing to
create your own designs. Have fun!
Dulce de Calabaza
The Day of the Dead
Oscar Urrea
Cada región de México tiene alimentos y golosinas
especiales para el Día de Los Muertos. En los meses de
septiembre y octubre, los cocineros, dulceros, panaderos y
artesanos están muy ocupados con los preparativos.
La ciudad de Morelia, a 185 millas al noroeste de la
Ciudad de México, en el estado de Michoacán, es considerada
la capital mexicana del dulce. Aqui, como en todas las
ciudades y poblaciones en todo México, se elaboran
muchos dulces para el Día de Los Muertos. Uno de los más
importantes es la calabaza en tacha, dulce de calabaza, o
conserva de calabaza. En los tiempos prehispánicos, la
calabaza se endulzaba con miel o la savia del maguey. En
la actualidad, es más comán endulzarla con piloncillo,
agregando canela, anís y clavos de olor al jarabe. En muchos
lugares, los camotes se endulzan de la misma manera y se los
usa para la ofrenda.
El Día de Los Muertos
Each region of Mexico has special foods and
treats made for Día de Los Muertos. The months
of September and October are ones of intense
preparation for cooks, confectioners, and bakers, as
well as craftsmen.
The small town of Morelia, 185 miles northwest of
Mexico City, in the state of Michoacan, is considered
the candy capital of the country. Here, as in towns
all over Mexico, many sweets are made for Día de
Los Muertos. One of the most important is candied
pumpkin (calabaza en tacha, dulce de calabaza, or
conserva de calabaza). In pre-Hispanic times, the
pumpkin or winter squash was sweentened with
honey or the sap of the maguey plant. Now, it is more
common to sweeten the squash with dark brown
sugar, adding the flavorings of cinnamon, anise, and
clove to the syrup. In many places, sweet potatoes are
sweetened in the same way and used on la ofrenda.
Oscar Urr
Candied Pumpkin
Candied Pumpkins
You will need:
1. pumpkin, about 3 pounds
From the Elisabeth Ortiz, The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking.
Wipe the pumpkin with a damp cloth and cut in wedges. Remove the seeds. Arrange 2. cups of piloncillo or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
the pumpkin pieces, shell side down, in a heavy saucepan. Take 1 1/2 cups of
the sugar and sprinkle it over the pieces, dividing it evenly. Add 1/2 cup of water to the saucepan, cover, and cook over very low heat until the
pumpkin is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar and 1/2 cup of water, and cook over
very low heat until slightly thickened. Serve this sauce on the side with the cooked pumpkin. Serves 6.
Milk is sometimes poured over the pumpkin; or a glass of milk may be served with it.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 15
6/7/07 2:01:38 PM
Mole, Tamales, Corn
The Day of the Dead
Mole and Tamales
El Día de Los Muertos
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 16
Two of the most important foods
made for Día de Los Muertos are a
selection of moles and tamales. Although
these foods are enjoyed on many other
occasions throughout the year, they are
always prepared for Día de Los Muertos.
Today, mole and tamales are a part of
most Mexicans regular diet. However, in
pre-Hispanic times, mole and especially
tamales were important offerings to the
gods. Thus the including of these two
foods on la ofrenda carries on a tradition
of using these items for both secular and
religious purposes.
Mole is a thick sauce made from a
variety of ingredients including chilis,
sesame seeds, herbs, spices, and
(frequently) chocolate or fruit. This sauce
was favored by the Aztec, who called it
molli (sauce). It is a mistake to think of
mole as a single dish. In fact, there are
many, many varieties of mole. All take
their name from distinctive spices used
to flavor them (mole verde, for example,
is made with green chilis), the meats they
contain, or the regions where they are
most popular. The most famous dish is
probably mole poblano (literally, mole
of Puebla), containing bitter chocolate,
served with chicken or turkey. According
to legend, mole poblano was invented by
a nun, Sor Andrea de la Asuncion, at the
convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla. One
cookbook lists more than 60 recipes
for mole from just the Mexican state of
On October 30, all over Mexico,
Mexican women are preparing mole for
use on November 1. Mole is always set out
for adults, but is sometimes considered
too spicy for young children, and may
not be included in the offerings for the
angelitos. A compadre or comadre
(godfather or godmother) will often take
pots of mole to every godchild in the area,
so large quantities of this food is prepared.
Tamales are made from corn that has
been processed by soaking and boiling in
limewater (most commonly wood ashes
or corn cob ashes mixed with water). The
Oscar Urrea
result, called nixtamal, is then ground into
a fine flour and made into a dough with
lard. Before the arrival of the Europeans
who introduced the pig and lard to native
cooking, the indigenous peoples used
honey, herbs, beans, and mole to make
tamales. Tamales may include meat,
nuts, or cheese. Some, called tamales
de dulce or just tamales dulce, contain
fruit. The dough is wrapped in either corn
husk or banana leaves and steamed (all
pre-Hispanic foods were either steamed
or boiled, since beef and pork fats were
unknown). The Aztec word for this food
is tamalli.
Make a list of your
favorite Mexican
foods. How many of
them have corn as
an ingredient?
The Aztecs, Olmecs, Mayans and other ancient peoples believed that corn
was sacred. Even today, the Tarahumara call themselves “children of the corn,”
or say, “Corn is our blood.” Corn is so central to life that many indigenous
peoples compare the life of the corn plant to the life of a human being.
In Mexico, fields are prepared and planted just before the rains start in May.
When the rains come, the corn sprouts, along with weeds. At this time, the first
weeding or la descarda takes place. Several weeks later, more weeds appear
and a second, careful weeding must be done (segundando). After this weeding,
the farmer fertilizes the field. Daily, the family watches for bugs or other
animals that may damage the plants. Finally, the elotes (ears of corn) begin to
form. Some elotes are picked, roasted, and eaten. Other elotes are picked and
the kernels removed for make tamales or atole. While still fresh, the corn silk is
collected and dried for a medicinal tea; the green leaves are collected and dried
for use in wrapping tamales; and the silvery-skinned mushroom which grows on
the plant, cuitacoche, is collected for a special treat.
In December, the dried corn is finally harvested. The dried stalks are
collected as fodder for the animals. In every region of Mexico, there are
ceremonies to mark the various stages of this process: blessing of fields, scaring
away evil spirits, prayers for rain, blessing of new corn plants, and harvest rites.
Corn or maize, beans, and squash are the basic foods for nearly all of the
indigenous farmers of the Americas. These foods yield a perfect complement of
amino acids and provide an ideal diet. Thus, the first Europeans often remarked
on the exceptionally good health and physique of the indigenous peoples. They
were, in fact, better nourished than the Europeans of that time.
6/7/07 2:01:42 PM
Chocolate & Atole
Mexican Hot Chocolate
6 cups milk
½ cup sugar
3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened
chocolate, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Stick cinnamon (optional)
In saucepan combine milk, sugar, chocolate, ground
cinnamon, and salt. Heat and stir till chocolate melts
and milk is very hot. Gradually stir 1 cup of the hot
mixture into eggs; return to saucepan. Cook 2 to 3
minutes more over low heat. Remove from heat. Add
vanilla; beat with rotary beater or molinillo till very
frothy. Pour into mugs; garnish with cinnamon sticks.
Makes 6 (8 - ounce) servings
About this recipe: a molinillo is a carved wooden beater that is twirled between the hand to make
chocolate frothy.
2 cups of milk
¼ cup Masa Harina
tortilla flour
/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Ground cinnamon or
stick cinnamon
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 17
Atole - Hot Cornmeal Beverage
In saucepan stir together ½ cup of milk, tortilla flour, and ½ cup
water. Cook and stir over low heat till thickened and bubbly. Blend
in remaining 1½ cups milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla; heat through.
Serve hot atole in mugs; sprinkle with ground cinnamon or place a
cinnamon stick in each mug.
Makes 6 (4 - ounce) servings.
About this recipe: Mexicans enjoy this stick, grainy, beverage
flavored with nuts, cinnamon, chocolate, or fruit.
The Day of the Dead
Susan Olivier-Hirasawa
for this is the molinillo, an elaborately carved
wooden chocolate beater which has several
rings and a star-shaped base.
Today, chocolate remains an important,
traditional beverage in Mexico, and coffee
did not become a popular drink until nearly
1800. Mexican chocolate is not as sweet
as European or American chocolate. It is
said that Cortes introduced chocolate into
the court at Spain. From there it spread all
over Europe and chocolate houses became
favorite meeting places. It was the Swiss who
added milk and additional sugar to chocolate,
creating the familiar candy so popular today.
Atole is an ancient drink which can be
served hot or cold. It is basically a mixture of
corn meal (nixtamal) and sweetened water.
It is the consistency of a thin sauce. Pureed
fruits such as pineapple, strawberries, quince,
plum, and apricots are often added
for flavor. If milk is used instead of water,
ground almonds, walnuts, egg yolk, or
chocolate is added. When flavored with
chocolate it is called champurrado. Aton
parado is atole sweetened with refined sugar,
raisins, peanuts, and cheese. Chileatole
contains chili, sweet corn, cheese, and
(frequently) either chicken or pork. In preHispanic records it is noted that, at a banquet
of merchants, the men drank chocolate and
the women drank atole.
El Día de Los Muertos
Susan Olivier-Hirasawa
Chocolate is an
important drink enjoyed
at most Mexican festivals. It
is the usual accompaniment for
tamales dulce. Chocolate is, along with
the beverage atole (made from corn) and
pulque (a fermented drink also made from
corn), a drink that was found in Mexico long
before the arrival of the Europeans. Chocolate
comes from the Aztec or Nahuatl word
xocoatl, meaning xocot (bitter) and atl (water).
The early Spanish writers tell us that
chocolate was a drink for kings, merchant
nobility, and upper ranks of the priesthood
and military only, and even they drank
it in moderation. Drinking too much
chocolate was thought to cause a
kind of madness. Special chocolate
drinking equipment was carried in net
bags: perforated cups to use as strainers,
tortoiseshell spoons, and cups painted
or covered with deer or jaguar skin.
Among the Aztec, the cacao bean was
also used as currency.
Cacao beans are ground with
almonds and sugar and then put in
small molds to dry. To make the drink,
a piece or tablet of chocolate is dropped
in boiling water and allowed to dissolve
completely (about five minutes). Then the
liquid is beat until frothy. The traditional tool
Chocolate y Atole
El chocolate es una bebida que se disfruta en la
mayoría de las fiestas mexicanas. Generalmente se
acompaña esta bebida con unos tamales dulce.
El chocolate, junto con el atole (hecho con maíz)
y el pulque (una bebida fermentada hecha con el
jugo del maguey), fueron bebidas que acostumbraba
tomarse en México mucho antes de la llegada de
los europeos. La palabra chocolate proviene del
vocablo azteca o náhuatl xocoatl, que significa
xocot (amargo) y atl (agua).
Los primeros escritores españoles nos indican que
el chocolate era una bebida que acostumbraban
tomar sólo los reyes, la nobleza y mercaderes, así
como los rangos más elevados entre los sacerdotes
y militares y aún ellos lo bebían con moderación. Se
pensaba que beber demasiado chocolate podía causar
una especie de locura. El equipo especial que se
usaba para tomar chocolate se llevaba en bolsas
de red: tazas perforadas que se usaban como
coladores, cucharas de carapacho de tortugas y tazas
pintadas o cubiertas con piel de venado o jaguar.
Entre los aztecas, el cacao se usaba también como
El cacao se muele con almendras y azúcar
y luego, la masa se coloca en pequeños moldes para
secarse. Para preparar la bebida, se pone un
pedazo o tablilla de chocolate en agua hirviendo
para que se disuelva totalmente (unos cinco
minutos). Luego, se bate el líquido hasta que quede
espumoso. La herramienta tradicional para batir el
chocolate es el molinillo, que es un batidor tallado
de madera que tiene varios anillos y una base en
forma de estrella.
En la actualidad, el chocolate es una bebida
tradicional en México y el café recién se convirtió en
una bebida popular por allí de 1800. El chocolate
mexicano no es tan dulce como el chocolate
europeo o el estadounidense. Se dice que Cortés
introdujo el chocolate a la corte de España. De allí, se
diseminó por todo Europa y las “casas de chocolate"
se convirtieron en los lugares favoritos de
reunión. Los suizos le agregaron leche y azúcar
adicional al chocolate, creando el dulce conocido
que es tan popular ahora.
El atole es una bebida antigua que puede
servirse caliente o fría. Es básicamente una
mezcla de harina de maíz (nixtamal) y agua
endulzada. Es de la consistencia de una salsa
aguada. Muchas veces, para darle más sabor, se le
agrega puré de frutas, tales como piña, fresas,
membrillo, ciruela y chabacanos. En caso que
se use leche en lugar de agua, se le agregan
almendras molidas, nueces, yema de huevo o
chocolate. Cuando se le agrega chocolate, se llama
champurrado. El atón parado es atole endulzado
con azúcar refinada, uvas pasas, cacahuates y
queso, El chileatole contiene chile, maíz dulce,
queso y (frecuentemente) ya sea carne de pollo o
puerco. Los registros prehispánicos indican que en
un banquete de mercaderes, los hombres bebían
chocolate y las mujeres, atole.
6/7/07 2:01:44 PM
The Day of the Dead
Painted Tiles and Candle Holders
El Día de Los Muertos
The ceramic history of the Americas
is a very long story. In precolumbian
times, clay vessels were made in great
quantities by the peoples of what is
today Mexico. Pieces were shaped
by hand or were made in moulds, but
the potter's wheel was unknown. The
Aztecs held the ceramicist in high
regard, and poetry translated from the
native language, Náhuatl, tells how
the potter “breathes" life into the clay,
“teaching" and “conversing" with it in
the act of making something with his
In thousands of villages in Mexico,
pottery is still made the way it has been
made for thousands of years. After
being excavated and brought to the
home, the clay is sun-dried. It is then
ground up, and often sifted through a
wire mesh (although a basketry sieve
floors of the building and the interior
and exterior walls are covered with
tiles. One wealthy owner had the
local potters make huge images of his
defeated enemies out of tiles, which he
used to cover the front of his mansion.
The women sometimes make
homemade candleholders from local
clays. The pieces are fired, painted and
glazed. Candles, so important to the
festival of Día de Los Muertos, are set
in these. Candle holders of clay are the
most common, and blackware censers
and candle holders from Metepec,
Puebla, Santa Fe de Laguna, or Amozoc
are the most prized. In Metepec,
blackware ceremics are used
for the adults, and polychrome
ceramics in bright colors
are used for offerings for the
Painted Tiles
You will need:
1 clay tile
acrylic craft paint or poster paints
Choose a popular image
from Día de Los Muertos.
You may want to choose
a skull, skeleton, flowers.
Lightly sketch your picture
onto a clay tile. Take your
paints and paintbrush and
paint over the sketch in
bright, beautiful colors.
Allow to dry.
Oscar Urrea
Clay Candle-Holder
You will need:
Modeling clay or, if you have access to a
kiln, potter’s clay
Black and colorful craft paint or poster
Paint brushes
Oscar Urrea
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 18
was probably used in earlier times).
Water is then added to the fine powder,
and the mixture is kneaded by hand
or foot. The moistened clay is then
stored underground or (today) under
a plastic sheet, allowing it to “cure"
or moisten uniformly. Some people
use the potters’ wheel, introduced by
the Spanish, today, but many others
continue to use the older methods.
When the Spanish came to Mexico,
they brought with them a strong
ceramic tradition. Colonial Mexican
artists copied the European fashion to
the best of their knowledge. The upper
classes employed indigenous artists
who had no classical art training. The
Spanish introduced geometric patters,
plant-like formations and glazing. Tiles
became a popular art form. In fact, the
city of Puebla is covered with tiles: the
Work the modeling or potterís clay into the shape of a candle-holder.
If working with modeling clay, allow to dry in a warm, sunny place. If
working with potter’s clay, allow the clay to bake in a kiln. When dry,
paint the candleholder black for adults or bright colors for children. Allow
to dry. Now you can insert a candle and give as a gift or place on your
6/7/07 2:01:50 PM
Crossword Puzzle
Fill in the crossword
puzzle by using the clues
1. Día de Los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico on __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 1 and 2.
2. __ __ __ __ __ __ __, especially marigold, are important for this celebration.
4. An ofrenda or __ __ __ __ __ is set up in most homes.
5. __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ are a symbol of this celebration in Mexico.
6. Día de Los Muertos is a time to remember your __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.
1. __ __ __ __ __ is an incense made from tree resin or sap.
2. At this time families clean the graves of family members in
the __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.
3. Sugar __ __ __ __ __ __ are a special candy made for this celebration.
4. Mole and __ __ __ __ __ __ __ are foods that are made for Día de Los Muertos.
The Day of the Dead
3. Papel picado are decorations made from colorful __ __ __ __ __.
El Día de Los Muertos
Select your answers from
the following words:
Pop-up Coffin
Cut out the coffin and skeleton. Cut along the solid lines and fold
along the dotted lines.
Glue the coffin together.
Punch holes in the skeleton’s chest and at the end of the coffin.
Glue the skeleton into the coffin.
Tie a string through the skeleton’s chest and then pull the string
out the hole at the end of the coffin.
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 19
6/7/07 2:02:00 PM
Fill in the Blanks
Fill in the blanks in these sentences with the word that fits.
1. Pan de Muertos is a special __________ made for this holiday.
2. Sugar ____________ are a popular candy associated with the Day of the Dead.
3. __________ is a nourishing drink made from corn.
The Day of the Dead
4. ______________, especially orange marigolds, are needed for this holiday.
El Día de Los Muertos
5. __________ is an incense that is always burned at this time of year.
6. One type of food that is very important this time of year is ______________.
7. An ______________ or altar is set up in most homes to honor family members
who have died.
8. A rich, flavorful sauce containing chili and chocolate is ________.
9. A artist whose drawing and prints are closely associated with the Day of the Dead is
Jose Guadalupe ____________.
10.Día de Los Muertos is a national holiday in ____________.
Select your answers from the following words:
Answers found at bottom of page.
Color and cut out these skulls
Laczko, Gina
1995 The Day of the Dead El Día de Los
Muertos. The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Carmichael, Elizabeth, and Chloe Sayer
1992 The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead
in Mexico. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Ortiz, Elisabeth Lambert
1992 The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking.
Ballantine, New York.
Posada, José Guadalupe
1972 Posada's Popular Mexican Prints. Dover, New
Garza, Carmen Lomas
1984 Papel Picado: paper cutout techniques.
Xicanindio, Mesa, AZ
Masuoka, Susan N.
1994 En Calavera: The Papier-mâché Art of the
Linares Family. Fowler Museum of Cultural
History, University of California, Los Angeles.
Webliography Recipes, food photos
and food customs. Provides history, lesson
plans and more.
Explores all facets of the holiday. Looks at local celebrations
of the holiday. Mexico's Day of the Dead.
Interactive for classroom use.
For Further Reading
Green, Judith Stripp
1969 Laughing Souls: The Days of the Dead in
Oaxaca, Mexico. San Diego Museum of
Man, California.
Esser, Janet Bordy (Editor)
1988 Behind the Mask in Mexico. Museum of
International Folk Art-Museum of New
Mexico, Santa Fe.
Pettit, Florence H. and Robert M.
1978 Mexican Folk Toys: Festival Decorations
and Ritual Objects. Hastings House, New York.
Kennedy, Diana
1985 Cuisines of Mexico. Harper and Row, New York.
Quintana, Patricia
1989 Mexico's Feasts of Life. Council Oak Books, Tulsa.
A Note of Thanks
1. bread 2. skulls 3. atole 4. flowers 5. copal 6. tamales 7. ofrenda 8. mole 9. Posada 10. Mexico
El Dia de los Muertos.indd 20
Tribune in Education would like to thank the following people
who gave so generously of themselves to help create this
Juan, Maricela and José Arellano Oscar Urrea
Zarco Guerrero
Larry Yáñez
Gina Laczko
Eric Healy of La
Martin Moreno
Susan Olivier-Hirasawa
Jonathan Shannon
6/7/07 2:02:05 PM

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