Dia de los Muertos: Altars

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Altar dedicated to my grandmothers and some favorite revolutionaries: Emma Goldman, Zapata and Phoolan Devi, 2008.

Both my mother and grandmothers have always had different kinds of altars in the house, some have been religious and others, just a pleasing way of placing favorite objects. Until I was an adult I didn’t give much thought to this tradition, even though I found myself replicating them in my own home. The unusual use of materials and creative placement is what usually catches my eye in other people’s altars. I was already well acquainted with the examples I’ve seen here in Los Angeles – a public altar aesthetic that is familiar to those who attend Chicano produced Dia de los Muertos events i.e. lots of papel picado, glittery, bright colors. In Mexico I was able to see quite a few traditional and native altars or ofrendas (as they are called in Mexico) and have included these photos as examples of the various regional styles.

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Private home, NezahualcĂłyotl

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Ofrenda for the rockeros, El Chopo, Mexico DF

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Art Gallery, Oaxaca

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Public ofrenda outside of a school, Oaxaca

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Outside of a museum, Oaxaca

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Nice example of unusual placement! Window of a civic organization, Oaxaca

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Two student made ofrendas, Oaxaca
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In Oaxaca, local indigenous groups were invited to participate in public display of ofrendas representing their cultural traditions. Most of the ofrendas were built with natural materials: marigold (the scent is said to be particularly delicious to the dead), reeds, bananas, loquats, sugarcane, apples, coconuts and pan de muerto. Other offerings like beer, mole, whole chickens, tamales, hot chocolate and burning copal are likely to entice the spirit world (and the rest of us) back to these earthly pleasures.

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3 thoughts on “Dia de los Muertos: Altars

  1. EL CHAVO! says:

    I really like the simple altars with mostly foods and flowers, they’re just basic and proper. I especially like the cempasuchil, it just smells so good! Nice pics by the way. 🙂

  2. Nombre Ta Loca says:

    I really enjoyed your pictures.. Without knowing it I have a year round altar in my room… They are mainly pictures of those special people that are dear to my heart.. No real flowers or fruit but I do have candles and little nik naks that were given to me by them..

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