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The Transformation of Día de los Muertos in the United States

Smithsonian shares how tradition meets modern for some Mexican Americans celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to remember and honor those who have departed. Celebrated on November 1 and 2 throughout Mexico and much of Latin America, it is said that on the holiday, the spirits of the dead return home for the night to visit their loved ones. Families visit gravesites and create ofrendas, or altars, covered with pictures of their departed family members, candles, sweets, decorations, and personal offerings like favorite foods and drinks to nourish the spirits in their journey. Filled with food, music, and dancing, Day of the Dead is a rich celebration of the lives of those who have passed before us. While Mexican American communities have celebrated the Day of the Dead for hundreds of years in the United States with personal, often religious, ceremonies, there has been an evolution in how the holiday is celebrated today. This change, in addition to a steady rise in awareness of the of the Day of the Dead in the United States, can be traced back to Chicano artists and activists who launched large scale, public events during the holiday seeking to create a new political and cultural consciousness among people of Mexican descent in the United States.

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