Día de los Muertos is not the Mexican Halloween. While both events are related, Día de los Muertos celebrates life and death with explosions of color and gratifying love. While this Latinx holiday is associated with death, it is not a sad occasion, but rather a way for people to express love and respect for deceased family members.
Día de los Muertos unfolds over the span of two days. Beginning after Halloween’s end on Nov. 1, cities throughout Mexico can be seen laughing, dancing, eating and rejoicing in memories of past loved ones.
In honor of Día de los Muertos, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) hosted a virtual event on Nov. 1 – the start of the festivities. CSUMB partnered with the Visual and Public Art department to host Tlamachtihketl Kui Martinez as he discussed important information about the symbolic Cempowalxochitl – the Day of the dead flower and Nahuatl lessons – the Uto-Aztecan language family spoken by millions in Central Mexico.
Martinez started the virtual lesson by having the audience introduce themselves in a traditional Nahuatl manner, announcing their identity with “Na notocah,” followed by their preferred name. In essence, it’s the Nahuatl way of saying “my name is.” After the introductions, Martinez guided viewers through a variety of Nahuatl phonics and brief statements.
Breaking down the origin of Cempowalxochitl, Martinez explained the significance of the flower represented throughout Día de los Muertos celebrations. What kind of Cempowalxochitl can be witnessed on altars honoring the dead? Martinez said “Mexican, Aztec and African marigolds,” are most common and traditional, due to the fragrance and color.
“The orange and yellow colors are like rays of the sun,” Martinez said. “They help guide our relatives that have passed on.”
Concluding the event with gorgeous and breathtaking photos showcasing Día de los Muertos altars throughout Mexico, Martinez provided the audience with insightful information, critical traditional framework and demonstrated the beauty in preserving native language and culture.