A Mexican celebration of death

There is a popular song in Mexico with lyrics to the effect of, ‘If I die away from Mexico, let them say I’m asleep, and have them bring me back home.’

The concept of death in Mexican culture is one unlike any other in the world – as we mourn death, we also celebrate it with humour and joy.

One of Mexico’s biggest and most widely known traditions is ‘Día de los Muertos’ which means ‘Day of the Dead.’ It is celebrated on 1 and 2 November and is a historic Mexican holiday where we remember that you never really die until your name is spoken for the last time.

Day of the Dead altar in MexicoDuring the day of the dead festivities, we get to honour our loved ones and reminisce by paying tribute to their time here on earth, and put up offerings (ofrendas) on altars with some of the things they used to love in life like their favourite food and drink, music, and decorations – all of this with the belief that on this day, their spirit will visit us and we will get to have them close once again.

Every altar is different, and it changes depending on who the offering is dedicated to. This could be either a famous person, a close relative, or just someone’s life that people want to honour.

University of Bristol

Every year people all over the world take the time to put up an offering to honour the dead and continue with this tradition. This year, Mexican Chevening Scholars continued that same tradition and organised offerings in their different UK universities. I’ve highlighted some of these below.

University College London (UCL)

With some incredible lighting and a great setting, scholars in the University of Bristol, along with the Mexican Society, paid tribute to some of the greatest Mexican artists of the golden era including María Félix, Pedro Infante, and José José.

Cardiff University

Scholars studying at UCL, together with the Mexican Society, paid tribute to all the Mexican women we’ve lost because of feminicides in Mexico in 2019. This noble offering’s goal is to respectfully remember their lives and their names, to keep their stories alive, and to keep seeking justice for them.

Sussex University

Scholars at Cardiff University, along with the Latin America Society, paid tribute to their loved ones. From relatives that passed away, to pets, to famous Mexican artists.

‘Pan de muerto’ and ‘chocolate abuelita’

In Sussex, scholars, along with the Mexican Society, organised an event where they put up an offering and invited people from different nationalities to join in on the celebration by painting their faces as ‘catrinas’.Lastly, Mexican scholars all over UK shared ‘pan de muerto’ (bread of the dead) and ‘chocolate abuelita’ (Mexican chocolate) with all of those who joined in on this holiday.

Being away from home in times like this can be hard but having the opportunity to share our culture and our experiences with people from all over the world, so they too can join in on the celebration of our loved ones lives makes it much easier.

So, here’s to all the people who have passed away. May their names never be forgotten, and their stories remain alive, for you never die as long as someone has you in their hearts.

In loving memory of my güelita Kika and Don Ramiro.

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