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Language Lab: Dia de los muertos---

Spanish II - Listening Section
Palabra Diaria
Vocabulary Ch 8
Vocabulario Ch 6
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Los Reyes Magos
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Spanish 1: Vocabulary
Día de los Muertos
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Use the following websites to answer questions about Day of the Dead


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Los Dias De Los Muertos

Celebrating the Mexican Holiday
The Days of the Dead

 Every autumn Monarch Butterflies, which have summered up north in the United States and Canada, return to Mexico for the winter protection of the oyamel fir trees. The locale inhabitants welcome back the returning butterflies, which they believe bear the spirits of their departed. The spirits to be honored during Los Dias de los Muertos.

 Los Dias de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead, is a traditional Mexico holiday honoring the dead. It is celebrated every year at the same time as Halloween and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd). Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time, but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing.

 The townspeople dress up as ghouls, ghosts, mummies and skeletons and parade through the town carrying an open coffin. The "corpse" within smiles as it is carried through the narrow streets of town. The local vendors toss oranges inside as the procession makes its way past their markets. Lucky "corpses" can also catch flowers, fruits, and candies.

ofrenda or altar
ofrenda or altar

 In the homes families arrange ofrenda's or "altars" with flowers, bread, fruit and candy. Pictures of the deceased family members are added. In the late afternoon special all night burning candles are lit - it is time to remember the departed - the old ones, their parents and grandparents.

 The next day the families travel to the cemetery. They arrive with hoes, picks and shovels. They also carry flowers, candles, blankets, and picnic baskets. They have come to clean the graves of their loved ones. The grave sites are weeded and the dirt raked smooth. The Crypts are scrubbed and swept. Colorful flowers, bread, fruit and candles are placed on the graves. Some bring guitars and radios to listen to. The families will spend the entire night in the cemeteries.

 Skeletons and skulls are found everywhere. Chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and white chocolate skeletons. Special loaves of bread are baked, called pan de muertos, and decorated with "bones.


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 Handmade skeleton figurines, called calacas, are especially popular. Calacas usually show an active and joyful afterlife. Figures of musicians, generals on horseback, even skeletal brides, in their white bridal gowns marching down the aisles with their boney grooms.

 The celebration of Los Dias de los Muertos, like the customs of Halloween, evolved with the influences of the Celtics, the Romans, and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But with added influences from the Aztec people of Mexico.

 The Aztecs believed in an afterlife where the spirits of their dead would return as hummingbirds and butterflies. Even images carved in the ancient Aztec monuments show this belief - the linking the spirits of the dead and the Monarch butterfly.


Cultural Theme Of
World Languages And Cultures

The Altar is erected in the middle of four symbolic columns represented by four desks which in turn represent the four stages of life, the four points of the earth, the four seasons and the four mathematical points upon which the Pyramids were built. Fruits and plants as well as corn and chocolate are part of our cultural ofrenda which marks the end of the growing season in ours fields, and the hope for rebirth of the bounty in the Spring.

In the ancient Mexican Civilizations, as in other ancient cultures, the four elements of life are: water, fire, earth and wind. Aztec representations of these elements were as follows:

Shells represented Water
Candles represented Fire
Corn, tomatillo, cacao, chili represented Earth
Musical flute represented Wind

In addition you can observe the following items, representing indigenous and syncretic symbols in many cultures such as:

Incense/ Copal: Sign of Worship

Cempasúchitl/ semposuchil (marygolds): Represent the passion that the Aztecs had for flowers as well as the brevity of life

The Feather of the Rooster: Represents the dawning of a new day

A Black Dog: Represents the guide accompanying the passenger / soul to another life

Frog: Represents the twilight of another day

Money: Represents generosity and wealth as well as the fare to be paid for the crossing

Mirrors: Represent the duality of existence

Photographs or posters of people: Represent Love and a way to remember and to learn from the virtues and abilities of the people represented there.

Masks: In Mexico as well in Africa, masks have played especially important roles in initiation, funerary rites, war, and holidays. In funerary rites their role has been to mark the transition and connections between this world and another, and they reaffirm the beliefs and values of a determined society. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead gives people an opportunity to dress up and perform dances that celebrate the life of those who have passed away, as well as to share community values and criticize or make fun of the government or institutions and their representatives. Sometimes, people wear masks to show their respect and fear. As in Africa, in certain rites which are accompanied by dance performance, the dancers wear masks to impersonate the invisible forces of the universe. The masks represent myths, goddess and god's personalities from their indigenous world combined with the representation of saints and demons. Due to the importance of masks to the people of Africa and Mexico and their respective cultures, they are at the altar as a symbol of respect to Yanga's life before and after arriving to America.