Text: “Every year in late October we make a shrine of all of my family member who have passed away, like the one in Coco, and we put out their favorite things. For example we put tulips for my grandma and one of the great grandpa’s ties on the shrine. The idea is that in November 1st they will come visit the shrine and interact with the items and watch over us for the rest of that year in return for us honoring their memory. The shrines are called ofrendas and the kids usually make them but the parents make sure they are structurally sound and beautiful. Making ofrendas is one of my favorite things to do with my siblings and cousin.
Context: GB is originally from Madrid Spain but his mother has strong roots in Mexico, where the tradition was created centuries ago. GB told me stories about making the ofrendas with his siblings and was excited to show me pictures of an example of a shrine from a past holiday. The tradition is very important to GB’s mother because she would make a family ofrenda with her siblings as a child and it seems to be a very long standing tradition from her side of the family.
Analysis: The ofrendas are a central part of the Day of the Dead celebration, which is a time for families and communities to come together to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have passed away. The brightly decorated shrines are meant to welcome the spirits of the dead back to the world of the living, and they are often decorated with offerings such as food, drinks, and personal items that were important to the deceased. The twist of this tradition regards the fact that making these ofrendas means the ghosts of the dead will look over them for the rest of the year, because traditionally the dead can only interact with the living on the days of dia de los muertos. I think this addition is sweet, especially for younger children, for them to be able to feel close to loved ones they may have never gotten to meet. Furthermore, it is a great way for them to get to know what their family members were like based off of what they put on the ofrendas.