Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead): A Quick Look into Culture and Marketing

Filed Under: Hispanic / Latino


Jorge Martínez-Bonilla

Senior Vice President, CultureBeat

C+R Employees Provide Meaning Behind Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Part 1, by Jorge Martínez-Bonilla Exploring the Culture and Marketing of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

A centuries-old Mexican tradition, Día de Los Muertos – a holiday of remembrance – has become more mainstream in the US. Over the course of this holiday, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their beloved living family members.

<< Notably, both names, Día de Muertos and Día de Los Muertos are grammatically correct. The holiday is celebrated among Mexicans and more widely among some other Latin Americans, but to clarify: all Hispanics do not celebrate Día de Muertos! >>

Hispanics and non-Hispanics find the distinctly Mexican colorful sugar skulls and altars to be cool; these are known as calaveras and ofrendas, respectively. And the truth is, they are cool.

Animated films such as Coco (2017) and The Book of Life (2014) have made a positive contribution to the recognition and understanding of this holiday. American retailers such as Target, Walmart, Michaels, and even Party City are on-board, continuing to recognize Dia de Muertos with special displays and product offerings for families that celebrate or want to learn more.

It is tempting to think of Día de Muertos as the Mexican or Hispanic version of Halloween because both share a European origin. They are in fact, not the same (or even Fall Harvest festivals) and both deserve separate recognition.

Día de Muertos is not a “scary” occasion, but rather a day of remembrance to honor and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed on. It is a way to continue to strengthen the family bond. Family is such a pillar of the Hispanic collective and culture that even death isn’t strong enough to topple it! Prayer, meditation, colorful arrangements and ornaments, food, and ofrendas are all an important part of this celebration.

Many brands and marketers are aware of the potential of this annual celebration, and those who embrace such holidays with respect and true understanding of its relevance will likely be more successful than those brands that simply apply trendy iconography and decorations.

Part 2, by Wilmar Gamez (C+R Alum)
Bi-cultural-Puerto Rican & venezuelan Perspective: Learning About Día de Muertos

As a proud woman of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan heritage, it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago – where 1 in 5 Chicagoans identify as Mexican – that I really understood what Día de Muertos was all about. A few Mexicans friends took the time to explain that its important, when a loved one dies, the best thing to do is to celebrate their life during “Día de los Muertos.”

Families gather to cook a whole meal that they bring to the cemetery where mariachis sing and join them to celebrate. Preparations usually consist of bringing the deceased loved one’s favorite food and drink (usually alcohol), and building an altar with a picture and perhaps some personal belongings. They set everything on a table, spread the cempasúchil (marigolds, bright yellow and orange flowers) by the gravesite and ask the mariachi singers to perform specific songs.

To commemorate this day, families pay their respect by visiting the grave sites of one or more their departed relatives. Some people are praying, while others may be snacking on pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which is a sweet bread specially sold during this time and paired with hot chocolate (or maybe with the preferred beverage of the deceased that is not meant for kids). In some cemeteries, vendors walk around selling colorful calaveras, flowers, candles, incense, and more pan de muerto.

At my son’s elementary school, kids build little altars in front of each classroom during this time of the year. They tell stories, mostly about their abuelos (grandparents) that are dearly missed, and some are even paying tribute to their dead pets. You see pictures inside of colorfully decorated shoe boxes, a mini replica of what is done by the adults at the graveyard. It is an emotional walk in the hallways, much like it is at the burial grounds.

Día de Muertos is one of the most colorful and loving acts that a person can do to celebrate our loved ones that are no longer with us. It’s all about good memories…and that warm feeling is universal.

We hope you enjoy the video our team has put together in recognition of the of Día de los Muertos. And please, share it with others!

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