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Experience a traditional Day of the Dead!

By Lexi Stickel and Gabi Pérez

Vibrant colors, rich traditions, skeletons, altars and sugar skulls – many customs make Day of the Dead a well-known tradition around the world. Día de Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated across Mexico and around the world in various other cultures. The holiday, through different types of activities, focuses on remembering loved ones who have passed. The celebration, which takes place on November 1 and 2, can be traced back to the pre-Columbian period in Mexico. In most states throughout Mexico November 1 is a day to honor and celebrate the lives of children and infants who have passed, usually called Día de los Santos Inocentes, while November 2 is set aside to honor the adults, Día de Muertos or Día de los Difuntos. Traditions revolving around the holiday include the building of private altars honoring the deceased, and visiting and cleaning the gravesites of loved ones.

Day of the Dead celebration
Traditional food, altars, arts & crafts
Thu, Oct 31, 5-7pm
With a carpool available from St. Paul’s at 5pm
La Palma Community Center
On the way to Dolores Hidalgo before Los Labradores
80 pesos – available at Solutions (Mesones 57) and Garrison & Garrison Books (Hidalgo 26)
Proceeds benefit the Rural Education Institute of Mexico

The building of altars to honor a loved one is something you will find all over Mexico. Altars can be placed at home or on top of the gravesite of the person who is being honored. When making an altar, family or friends include photos of the deceased, candles, flowers, water, fruit and candy skulls. Four main elements of nature that are included in all altars are: earth, wind, water and fire. Earth is represented by a crop, which is believed to feed the soul that has passed. A moving object, usually tissue paper, represents wind. Water is left to quench the soul of the deceased for it is believed they must embark on a long journey and candles are placed on the altar to represent fire and the soul of the deceased.

The Rural Education Institute of Mexico is hosting a Day of Dead celebration at the community center in La Palma (on the way to Dolores Hidalgo before Los Labradores). The event will take place on Thursday, October 31 from 5-7pm. The families of La Palma will contribute traditional altars and homemade tamales for the guests. Additionally, the students who participate in the organization’s programming have prepared decorations and a short documentary about the history of Day of the Dead. There will be face painting and other fun activities. It will be a fantastic way to experience a traditional celebration of Day of the Dead. A carpool will be available at St. Paul’s Church at 5pm. Tickets for this wonderful celebration cost 80 pesos and are available at Solutions (Mesones 57) and Garrison & Garrison Books (Hidalgo 26).

Though Mexico has the second largest economy in Latin America, there remains a stark inequality in the country’s education system – rural Mexico children simply do not have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. The problem is partly financial (there are few high schools in the campo, and the government does not provide transportation for rural children to attend urban schools), and partly cultural (in rural areas, literacy is low, and education is not always a priority). The Rural Education Institute of Mexico exists to help fill this gap, and to give rural children the incentive and means to go on to high school, and beyond.

Our skilled volunteers work in rural community centers, providing programs that introduce children to a world outside the campo. We build libraries and help children improve their reading. Children learn art, drama and English, among other subjects, and are taught to use computers that we supply. We also enable the most deserving children to meet the costs of going to high school – about US$700 per student per year – by awarding scholarships.

For more information about the Rural Education Institute of Mexico, please visit our website at or call us at 415-124-1357.


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