Day of the Dead in the Riviera Maya
Day of the Dead (known as Día de Muertos in Spanish) is a beloved tradition celebrated all over Mexico between October 31 and November 2.
In the Riviera Maya, Hanal Pixán is the name given by the Mayans of the Yucatán peninsula to this unique celebration, which can be translated to English as “Food of the Spirits”.
On this holiday, families in the Riviera Maya remember and honor their deceased loved ones. It is a festive and colorful holiday celebrating the lives of those who have passed on, which many associates with the famous Catrinas.
Families visit cemeteries, decorate the graves and spend time there, in the presence of their deceased friends and family members. They also set up elaborately decorated altars in their homes to welcome the spirits.
Because of its importance as a defining aspect of Mexican culture and the unique aspects of the celebration which have been passed down through generations, Mexico’s indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead was recognized by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2008.
Day of the Dead Altars
Every altar includes four elements: water, wind, earth, and fire. Water is left in a pitcher so the spirits can quench their thirst. Traditional paper banners represent the wind. Earth is represented by food, especially bread. Candles are often left in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions, so the spirits can find their way. You can learn more about the traditional elements on an altar by clicking here.
Every state in Mexico has its own particular way of setting up its altars. In some regions, you can find a flat surface with all the elements on it, while in others you can find several levels. The most common ones have three levels, which represent heaven, earth, and the underworld.
Day of the Dead at Cetmar 36
This year, the KKIS team was invited to Cetmar 36, one of the high schools KKIS has worked alongside for many years, to take part in a Day of the Dead altar competition. Four teams of high school students set up altars representing the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Yucatán, and Tabasco.
A panel of judges used a rubric to make sure every altar had the correct elements on it, as students explained the particularities of each, depending on the state they were representing. The beautiful altar of Tabasco won by unanimous decision, which included a breathtaking performance of the popular song, “La Llorona”, by one of the students!
KKIS Scholars Honor their Ancestors
KKIS also extended an invitation to all scholars to submit photos of their Day of the Dead Altars. Check out the photos below to see how some of them keep alive this beautiful tradition!
“This altar is dedicated to my grandparents, great-grandparents, and relatives who are no longer with us.”
– Esmeralda Itzel Lucrecio Cen, Class of 2024
“With this altar, we honor my grandmother, my mother’s mother, my grandfather, my father’s father, my 3 great-grandparents, and my aunt. We offer them drinks and delicious bread of the dead accompanied with fruit and its marigold flowers. Every year we put it with great affection!”
– América Citlalic Ramírez Cuevas, Class of 2023
“At my altar, I honor and celebrate two people who were very important and special in my life: My grandmother Marcela and My father Raúl”
– Raúl Alexander Basulto Martín, Class of 2024
“At this altar, I pay homage to my paternal grandparents, my grandmother Yolanda Moreno, a woman with a strong, determined, and respectable character, and my grandfather Antonio Sulu, a loving, hard-working, and responsible man.
On the altar are the foods that my grandparents enjoyed so much in life, such as tangerines, tamales, hot chocolate, etc.
Every November 2, my family and I prepare the altar for my grandparents, with their favorite foods, drinks, and fruits that they enjoyed the most in life, waiting just like every year, again for their visit, because even though I can’t see them, I know they are with me in spirit.”
– América del Rosario Sulu Dzib, Class of 2024