What is Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead?
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Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of life and death. While the holiday originated in Mexico, it is celebrated all over Latin America. The British Museum shows how every year the dead are remembered and summoned by the observances of the living, who cook, make music and decorate their graves.
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The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living.
Calavera was used to describe short, humorous poems, which were often sarcastic tombstone epitaphs published in newspapers that poked fun at the living and are a popular part of the celebrations. Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. In 1947, artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in a mural and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.
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