Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, the annual Mexican tradition of reminiscing about departed loved ones with colorful altars, or ofrendas, is typically celebrated Nov. 1-2.
In 2020, the tradition was undoubtedly harder for Latino families in the U.S. torn apart by COVID-19. Many mourned more than one relative, underscoring the pandemic's disproportionate impact on communities of color.
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In one Mexico City neighborhood, flowers were transported in boats through water channels.
Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced back more than 3,000 years throughout pre-Columbian Latin America.
The Catholic missionaries who arrived with the Spanish colonizers starting in the late 1500s introduced All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) to the Americas, and the Indigenous peoples infused these holy days with their own rituals around commemorating and connecting with deceased ancestors.
Instead of grieving the dead, the lives of the deceased were celebrated and their memories honored.
Today, Día de los Muertos, as it is known in Spanish, has become a beloved tradition, particularly in U.S. cities with large Mexican and Central American immigrant communities.
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The modern version rose out of the activism of the 1970s, when Chicano artists in Los Angeles and San Francisco lifted up Day of the Dead to affirm their heritage and build pride. They combined contemporary and traditional iconography to appeal to all generations of Mexican Americans, unite the community and guide the public toward a more positive understanding of Mexican culture.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life have come to appreciate and enjoy Day of the Dead. Celebrations hosted by museums, galleries and community centers take place each November and may feature a festive procession, skeleton costumes, face painting, music, dancing, special food and arts and crafts workshops.
At the center of it all is the ofrenda, or offering, honoring not only departed family members but also heroes and celebrities. Often assembled by artists, ofrendas feature colorful textiles and cut tissue paper; marigolds and other flowers; candles; photographs; and mementos, as well as the iconic decorated candy or papier-mché skulls.
The Day of the Dead, with all its exuberant color, life-affirming joy and appeal for the whole family, is fast becoming a popular American holiday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.