Have you been to a Día de los Muertos celebration? Here's what you should know.

Día de los MuertosDia de los Muertos altar

The Day of the Dead is a holiday long celebrated in Mexican and Hispanic culture. It’s typically recognized and celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 every year, though it varies from region to region. If you are unfamiliar with the holiday, it is a time when people welcome the souls of those they have lost back into the world for a few days.

To welcome the souls of lost loved ones, families will typically assemble an ofrenda (altar) with photos of the departed, candles, favorite foods, trinkets, papel picado (tissue-paper designs) and cempasúchil (marigolds). Ofrendas can be simplistic and small or very large and artistic. They are typically constructed to reflect the tastes of those they are welcoming. 

Despite the meaning behind the holiday, it is not a somber occasion, but a lively one meant to honor and remember the deceased. It is a day of celebration, one with music, food, color, dancing, singing and much more. Its purpose is to carry on the memory of those no longer with us. This is reflected in many ofrendas as some families elect to display many generations back.

It is said that the souls of children return on Nov. 1, whereas the adults return on Nov. 2. Mesilla, NM recently held its own celebration for the holiday, starting Oct. 27 to Oct. 29, and finishing on Nov. 2. 


Recap: Día de los Muertos — Mesilla Plaza

The event and celebration is organized and preDia de los Muertos Folkloricosented by the Calavera Coalition, a non-profit group founded to coordinate Día de los Muertos events and activities. The group encouraged the donation of non-perishable food items to be given to the Casa de Peregrinos Food Pantry. All proceeds from the event will go towards Community of Hope and Casa de Peregrinos.

Friday, Oct. 27, saw the start of the celebration as the community began its altar set-up, and vendors opened to the public. The evening held a performance by Aztec Dancers followed by a screening of the Disney film “Coco,” which explores themes surrounding the holiday and Mexican culture.

Saturday, Oct. 28 had plenty to see at the plaza. To kick it off, the opening ceremony featured Linda Goff as a soloist. Memorably, Grupo Folklorico Valle del Sol performed various dances with different story lines. The group comes from El Paso, TX to perform on the Mesilla Plaza annually with beautifully tailored dresses, enchanting choreography and remarkable calavera masks. Vendors lined the outskirts of the plaza with colorful displays and many death-related products. 

Altars could be found all around; photos of generations past, young, old and even furry companions. There was an abundance of bright Dia de los Muertos altar 2cempasúchil, papel picado, pan de muerto (sweet bread), toys, booze and plenty of other offerings.

As the day continued, the Aztec Dancers joined the fray in performing traditional and mesmerizing dances, followed by a Frida Kahlo costume contest and music by Upscale Entertainment. The evening ending after Calavera Coalition hosted wedding vow renewals with a reception and dance.

Sunday Oct. 29, held more festivities with Linda Goff, Grupo Valle, and Aztec Dancers returning for their performances. Additionally, more music was provided by KCIKS. The celebration continued until 6:00 p.m.

To finish off the celebrations, Thursday Nov. 2, on All Souls Day, the public was invited to meet on the plaza for a candlelight procession. The procession was then led to the Mesilla Cemetery, where the Aztec Dancers joined once again. The public was asked to return to the plaza for pan de muerto.


Mesilla hosts the multi-day Día de los Muertos celebration on the plaza annually. Make sure you check in with the Calavera Coalition for information on next year's event.