How Has Day of the Dead Spread Through Latin America?

By | 12 July, 2019

Day of the Dead is one of the most famous Mexican festivals, and it has had a heavy influence on other countries across the globe. The event is held to honor and remember the dead, and also help them on their way in their spiritual journey. Death is seen as something to be celebrated in the Central American country, and other cultures have appropriated this in different ways. In Latin American nations, there are similar observances of this iconic festival.

Even if you’re from one of the few countries that doesn’t in some way recognize Day of the Dead, it’s highly likely that you will have heard of it thanks to its presence in the mainstream popular culture. The festival recently featured in Spectre in 2015, when James Bond went on an unauthorized mission in Mexico City. It was also a prominent theme in the 2014 animation, The Book of Life. There have been numerous games inspired by the event, such as Esqueleto Mariachi slot game at Genesis Casino and the Grim Fandango game series from LucasArts. Indeed, it is almost beginning to rival Halloween in its prevalence in the entertainment industry.

In Mexico, the Day of the Dead starts on October 31 and goes on until November 2. When the event was featured in the 007 romp, there was no real-life parade in Mexico City. But interest in the movie led to this street party actually becoming a new way of celebrating in the capital. The Sam Mendes film even helped boost tourism to the city for the festival.

Various South American countries choose to celebrate the Day of the Dead in different ways, which usually aren’t entirely the same as what goes on in Mexico. In Brazil, the festival is observed on November 2, and involves people visiting churches and cemeteries with candles and flowers much the same as it is in Mexico. In Peru, it is done in a similar way, with music sometimes being played at the graves as well.

Guatemalan celebrations for Day of the Dead are a little more extravagant, and on November 1, people make giant kites and fly them high in the sky. These constructions often have messages to the dead tied to the string, and the kites are designed to help the spirits find their way back to Earth. Ecuador also has some fairly elaborate carnivals in place for the Day of the Dead. This is because it is extremely important to the Kichwa people who make up around a quarter of the population. There is a day-long remembrance at the cemetery with food and offerings for those who have passed. One of the main dishes is a spiced fruit porridge called colada morada.

The Day of the Dead has spread through Latin America and become an important event. The fact that it has also been used frequently in mainstream culture suggests that it will be even bigger and better in the future.


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