Día de los Muertos has both indigenous origins from the Aztec, and Catholic origins from the Spanish conquistadors’ All Saints and All Souls Day. The holiday started out as an indigenous celebration of life, in a culture which believes to this day that death should be marked with festivities because the person who dies simply passes on to a better existence and should be accompanied by friends, family, food and spirit on that journey.
While Mexico is perhaps most well known for its celebrations, many other countries throughout Central & South America and the Caribbean celebrate their version of the holiday(s) as well–each with its own special components unique to place.
Like many countries in Central and South America, Peruvians celebrate the dead over a span of two days: Dia de Todos los Santos Vivos (All Saints Day) and Dia de los Santos Difuntos (All Souls Day). In Peru, November 1st is dedicated to food and feasting, while the second brings visits to loved ones’ graves. Friends and family feast at home on their departed loved ones’ favorite dishes on the first; on the second, families move the celebration to their cemeteries to continue the party with food, drinks and music–some communities will even spend a night of revelry in the cemetery. November 2nd is dedicated to sharing memories of or legends about the departed and honoring their spirits.
Ecuadorians’ special spin on the holiday is that they adorn the graves of their ancestors with colada morada, a spiced berry and purple corn flour drink popular in the region, as well as sweet bread shaped like babies and decorated with icing and colourful toppings. They are filled with dulce de leche and are reportedly to DIE for (pun intended). Sound delicious? You can find some recipes on our Pinterest page.
In Santiago Sacatepéquez, just outside of Antigua, a huge celebration is held each year. Here the cemetery fills to the brim as visitors bring flowers, typically marigolds, to the graves of their loved ones. Barriletes Gigantes (giant kites) are flown on site and can be seen for miles around. They can be almost 50 feet in diameter and are hand-painted or embroidered throughout the year in preparation.
Brazil’s take is a bit more somber. Called “Dia de Finados” this day is reserved for introspection and contemplation of life and those lost. It is tradition to visit cemeteries early in the day; some even give up meat or alcohol as a show of respect.