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Overview of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

According to National Geographic, Dia de los Muertos is a Latin American custom and national holiday in Mexico that combines indigenous Aztec ritual with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2), brought to the region by Spanish conquistadors.  

This holiday is NOT a Mexican version of Halloween. Rather, "Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members."


The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his toys and his most steadfast love... Death is not hidden away: he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain, or irony... Mexican death is a mirror of Mexican life. -  Octavio Paz,  The Labyrinth of Solitude.



Dia de los Muertos | National Geographic
Top 10 Things to Know about the Day of the Dead | National Geographic

In the Library

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Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead Celebration is the most important holiday of the year in Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, a joyful time when families remember their dead. Day of the Dead provides a colorful look at the iconic folk art and family traditions that play a vital role in the event, which happens across the country from October 31 through November 2.

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The Day of the Dead

Calaveras -- grotesque yet lively representations of costumed skeletons -- are associated with Mexico's Day of the Dead festivities. This compilation of 187 multi-character prints and spot illustrations includes many works by José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico's most illustrious graphic artist. 

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Day of the Dead in the USA

Honoring relatives by tending graves, building altars, and cooking festive meals has been an honored tradition among Latin Americans for centuries. Focusing on the power of ritual to serve as a communication medium, Marchi combines a mix of ethnography, historical research, oral history, and critical cultural analysis to explore the manifold and unexpected transformations that occur when the tradition is embraced by the mainstream. 

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Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca

The Day of the Dead is the most important annual celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico. Skillfully combining textual information and photographic imagery, this book begins with a discussion of the people of Oaxaca, their way of life, and their way of looking at the world. It then takes the reader through the celebration from the preparations that can begin months in advance through to the private gatherings in homes and finally to the cemetery where the villagers celebrate together -- both the living and the dead. 

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The Days of the Dead (Los Dias de Muertos)

This book offers a remarkable look at Mexico's traditional holiday honoring departed ancestors, friends, and family. Each aspect of the multiday festival is carefully explored: the journey to the cemeteries to spruce up neglected gravesites, the lively marketplace selling breads and candies in the shapes of skulls and skeletons, the peaceful vigil as friends and families crowd the cemeteries to await the arrival of their loved ones through the long night. 

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Día de Muertos

The people of Oaxaca, Mexico, believe the souls of the dead, the antepasados, return every year for a twenty-four-hour visit. They are welcomed into their former homes with gaily decorated altars and offerings of food and gifts. Then they are escorted back to their resting places in the cemeteries. In this beautiful book, Defibaugh's photography catches the essence of the people and their celebration, while Albro's text supplies background understanding of the beliefs and practices of the observance. The Day of the Dead book expresses the joy, sorrow, and ritual of the many public celebrations of the festival. 

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Día de Los Muertos

Learn all about the traditions of Día de los Muertos with this second book in the brand-new board book series Celebrate the World, which highlights special occasions and holidays across the globe. At the end of October each year, it's time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Día de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe-winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Día de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. 

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Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead

Each October, as the Day of the Dead draws near, Mexican markets overflow with decorated breads, fanciful paper cutouts, and whimsical toy skulls and skeletons. Drawing on a rich array of historical and ethnographic evidence, this volume reveals the origin and changing character of this celebrated holiday. It explores the emergence of the Day of the Dead as a symbol of Mexican and Mexican-American national identity. Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead poses a serious challenge to the widespread stereotype of the morbid Mexican, unafraid of death, and obsessed with dying. In fact, the Day of the Dead, as shown here, is a powerful affirmation of life and creativity.

La Malinche

Web Resources

Dia de los Muertos at TCC

TCC Libraries Digital Display Archive

The Tarrant County College District Libraries are pleased to provide a wide assortment of digital displays and online exhibits designed to educate, inform, entertain, and engage our entire community, and to help support the learning experience outside of the traditional classroom environment.  To view more of these web-based displays, visit our Digital Display Archive page.