¡Adivina Adivinador! Day of the Dead Sayings

Hay más tiempo que vida

There is more time than life.

Hierba mala nunca muere.

Bad weed never dies.

Se me subió el muerto.

The deceased climbed on me!  Which means: “It really scared me!”

Ya ni en la paz de los sepulcros creo.

I don’t even believe in the peace of the tombs anymore.  “I don’t trust anyone”

Te asustas del muerto y te cobijas con la mortaja.

You’re afraid of the defunct but use his shroud to cover yourself!      It is used when someone is criticizing another one, but at the same time he takes advantage of him.

A mí la muerte me pela los dientes.

Death peels my teeth!  Which means “Death can’t do anything to me!”

Quien con la esperanza vive, alegre muere.

He who lives with hope dies happy.

Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls Origins and Symbolism

Sugar Skulls are one of the most popular and iconic symbols of the Day of the Dead Celebration.  When the Day of the Dead festivities approach, one can find sugar skulls being sold nearly everywhere; in traditional markets, stores,  and street vendors. Sugar skulls can be also made at home or at school.

Sugar Skulls at the Market

The basic ingredient is of course azucar, sugar!  The decorations are made with colored icing.

Some sugar skulls have popular names so everyone has their own special calavera!

Sugar Skulls or calaveras de azucar, can be given to living friends or placed as an offering to our dead relatives and friends placed in the ofrenda.

Sugar Skulls Placed on Ofrenda

The sugar skulls vibrant colors and festive decorations reflect the spirit of the Day of the Dead celebrations: a day of happy remembrance of our dearly departed.

Nowadays there are also delicious skulls made of chocolate, amaranth, or any ingredient that can be molded into a skull.

Amaranth & Chocolate Skulls

Sugar skulls have become so popular that you can see representations of them in pillows, tattoos, phone cases, prints, stickers, you name it!

Day of the Dead Pillow


Jose Guadalupe Posada: Creator of La Catrina

   José Guadalupe Posada, an ingenious and original artist, lived during one of the most turbulent times in Mexico.  He knew how to capture the essence of this turbulence in his lithographs to the point that they became the icon of Revolutionary Mexico.

 Posada was born in Aguascalientes in 1853, and as a child, he learned the techniques of grabado and lithography in Trinidad Pedroso’s Workshop of Popular Graphics.  In 1871, he began to collaborate as an illustrator for El Jicote, which was published in his native land, where his sarcastic style had already begun to emerge.

It’s possible that because of political persecution he was forced to move to León, Guanjuato, where he gave classes at a high school.  There he built his own workshop and quickly became famous in his field.

Skeletons Dance

He moved to Mexico City in 1888 and began 25 years of lithographic and “grabado” production, collaborating for several newspapers and flyers.  In all of these cartoons, Posada satirized governmental abuses and revealed all different types of secrets and gossip about the families favored by the Porfirista regimen (the period when the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz rules). Posada immortalized both important events and everyday life in his work, but not only that…

Posada also made one of the most ancestral myths of the Mexican culture famous: death.  From the ancient cultures that were established in the Valle de México to the mexicas, every civilization has taken a very special interest in death.  It wasn’t sadness or pain, but a mystical influence – magical in the way that it became a friend, a faithful confidante, a mysterious conqueror.

Catrina Jose Guadalupe Posada

Posada gave it a face, with a sarcastic, joking touch.  It was through his art that the Catrina and later the Calaca were born.  Both feminine personalities are famous icons of death and the top creations of Posada.

La Llorona A five-century-old lamentation

Read in Spanish

“They say that a crazy weeping woman appears
in a street near the high school/
That she dances the twist and rock‘ n roll;
that she dances rock‘ n roll and the twist,
and if you look at her you’ll go completely mad…”

Los Gliders, 1961

For over 500 years and even in the age of space travel and global warming, in many parts of Mexico you can still hear the echo of a lamentation.  A woman wanders in the middle of the night, through vacant lots, in alleyways with walls of volcanic rock or of quarry stone; weeping over the death of her children.


Dressed in white, with her loose hair; this woman still makes children as well as old-timers tremble with terror, from the lowlands of the Bajío region and even to the southeast of Mexico. She’s “La Llorona”- (The Weeping Woman).


La Llorona Hard Cover

This is the ancient legend that every Mexican child hears either from the mouth of his grandfather or passed on by some school friend that wants to play a joke on him.  There’s even a rock’ n roll song that reflects the way that we still get together with this mythical woman.


But the Weeping Woman is much more than a ghost or an apparition. It’s got nothing to do with horrible women with bloody eyes or sharp, pointed teeth. It’s not just a paranormal entity or nor some insane woman who inspired a tale.  

La Llorona is a woman both faceless and ageless, a compendium of many symbols and pre-Hispanic deities. She’s both a condemned woman and at the same time, a goddess bearing an ominous message. 

A Day of the Dead Story: Those Good Old November Days

I hold close to my heart and in my soul those good old days of November when I, as a child, and would help my abuelita ,grandmother, commemorate our loved ones who had passed away. Beginning in October I would ask:

– “Abuelita, when will we go to the market to buy the papel picado“(paper with cut-out figures)?

– “Abuelita, how many days until we go to the cemetery?

– “When are you going to get the table ready for the altar offering?”

And she would patiently respond, “Very soon, sweetheart, but remember that first we have to clean the house really well for their visit. They’re our most important visitors and we have to welcome them in to a very clean and organized home!

I thoroughly enjoyed those afternoons when, after school, we would go to the market to buy everything we needed for the holiday. By that time the market would be packed with things for the Day of the Dead. I remember that before, just like now, flowers were sold everywhere, especially the cempasuchitl, that orange flower that is only sold during this time of year.

There were stands where practically everything for the Day of the Dead was sold everything – candles, black ceramic candlesticks, and the fruit of the season: squash, sugar cane, and bananas. The bakeries prepare “ Pan de Muerto” , day of the dead bread and other special types of bread as offerings; for example, the golletes, a pink doughnut-type of bread, which symbolizes the cycle of life and death.

Get ready, sweetheart,” my grandma would tell me, “Today we have to get up early to get everything ready.”

October 31 had finally arrived, the eve of the big celebration. First I would help her put aside the living room furniture to get the table ready. Then we would cover the table with a white cloth, my grandma’s favorite.

Teaching in Mexico…. Halloween and Day of the Dead

Halloween, as it is celebrated in the United States, is a holiday, which derived from the Druids, a learned and priestly class that existed in Roman times.  Little is known about these people except that they were an elaborate political and religious organization, and that they worshiped many gods.  The day of Saman was one of those celebrations.  On that day, the Druids believed that the Lord of Death called together the souls of the wicked who had died during that past year.

In the United States, Halloween, as many other holidays, has become so commercialized that most people are not really aware of the history behind it.  Mexico’s Day of the Dead has remained much more traditional, though Halloween is often celebrated here now as well.  Both holidays are centered around death, and both are influenced by each particular country’s view on death.  I have included below two poems about death that were written by one of my ninth grade students, Federico Berrueto.

Death Is…

Death is black.
It is our shadow.
It will always be with us, 

And when we no longer have it, 

We go to the light.

It is true sometimes we are scared of our own shadow;
We are also scared of death.
But being afraid of our shadow is like being scared of the day, 

So why don’t we love death as much as we love the day?

Death is a part of life;
Death is our daily breakfast
And nothing will keep it away.
Death is a way of seeing life.

This was her day…

She is dead
                As cold as stone.
This was her day –
                   The day she left us.

 But we know she’ll come back
                       And take a friend of mine
And it will be his day –
                      The day he leaves me.             

And I know they’ll be back
 And take me;
I’ll be as cold as stone.

        I’ll have my day
The day I leave you.