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The “Day of the Dead” -- A Tradition of Celebrating Life

[minti_image img="20399"][minti_spacer height="20"]El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration of the deceased that originated over 3,000 years ago during the time of the Aztecs. Although it always follows Halloween falling on November 2nd each year, there is nothing spooky about the holiday at all. It is a lively, colorful holiday for families to remember and honor their deceased loved ones with food, drink, parties and activities that the dead enjoyed in life. The celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is very much alive and well in southern New Mexico.

In historic Mesilla, NM the celebration takes place on the plaza where locals construct family altars adding their relative’s favorite trinkets and photographs to honor their memory. The celebration sees death as a natural part of the human experience, and on Dia de los Muertos, it is believed that the dead, still part of the community, awake from eternal sleep to share celebrations with their families and loved ones.[minti_spacer height="50"][vc_row bg_color="#000000" top_padding="25" bottom_padding="25"][minti_image img="20400"]

A Surprisingly Joyous Day -- Happy Skeletons and Sweet Skulls

[minti_spacer height="20"]One of the most familiar symbols of Dia de los Muertos are the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) which are featured everywhere during the holiday. They are usually portrayed as enjoying life, dressed in fine clothing and in entertaining situations. The deceased are also honored with sugar skulls, and marigolds (the flower of the dead). The belief is that the dead would be insulted by mourning and sadness, and hence, the celebration is joyous and festive. The rituals of the festival are very symbolic and the holiday is actually even recognized by UNESCO on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The altars, which are the center of the celebration are not meant for worshipping, but are meant to welcome the spirits back to the realm of the living, which is why the are filled with offerings such as water, food, family relics and photos and a candle for each departed relative. Other offerings might include pan de muerto, or bread of the dead which is a traditional sweet bread, sometimes decorated with bones and skulls. The bones are often arranged in a circle to represent the circle of life. Sugar skulls, part of a sugar art tradition, are pressed in molds and decorated with bright colors. Costumes are a big part of the day, as is papel picado, the beautiful Mexican craft of pierced paper that is often seen in Mexican restaurants. This art represents the wind and the fragility of life.[minti_spacer height="50"][vc_row bg_color="#000000" top_padding="25" bottom_padding="25"][minti_image img="20401"]

Experience Mesilla At Its Most Festive -- November 2-4

[minti_spacer height="20"]There could not be a better time to visit historic Mesilla than during the popular and well-attended Dios de los Muertos. During the three day event, the streets will come alive with music, vendors and entertainment. Always popular is the folklorico dancers with their authentic costumes and wonderful choreography. Vendors will include scrumptious snacks and treats--not to mention all of the local restaurants which are ready to serve. The vendors sell original artwork, crafts and collectibles.

Local merchants are a big part of the celebration, with lots of great shopping, and several of the restaurants building altars of their own. The altars (or ofrendas) are a key part of the event and are set up around the plaza. Anyone is welcome to set up their own altar, which come in all shapes and sizes.

Location: The Plaza, Old Mesilla, NM

When: November 2-4, 2018

Join the candlelight procession on November 2nd at 6 pm as the dead are remembered. Homemade altars are on display and a giant piñata is broken open.

Old Mesilla Plaza. (575) 524-3262 ex. 116.[minti_button link="https://www.mesillanm.gov/" target="_blank" color="color-2" size="medium"]More info[/minti_button]Music and dance groups will perform throughout the day and visitors can also enjoy traditional food and beverages. Several artisans and crafters will be onsite as well. All the activities are free to the public. People sing, play instruments, carry candles or carry objects from their loved ones. Faces are masked in skeleton style makeup while others pattern their faces in colorful mystic designs.


  • 6:00-8:00 pm Music on the plaza by Yadira’s Acoustic Duo
  • 6:45 pm The Candlelight procession begins starting from the plaza. The procession returns back to the plaza, where participants and visitors can enjoy free coffee and pan de muerto. The procession begins at the plaza and travels along Calle de Guadalupe to San Albino Cemetery.


  • 12:00 pm Opening ceremony begins on the plaza featuring soloist Linda Goff
  • 12:00-3:00 pm Music by LC Gents
  • 3:30 pm Ballet Folkorico dancers: Grupo Valle del Sol
  • 5:00 pm Frida Kahlo Look-a-like Costume Contest Judging
  • 6:00 pm Moon Whisperers Dancers
  • 6:30 pm Music by Latin Funktion


  • 12:00 pm Opening ceremony featuring Linda Goff
  • 12:00-3:00 pm Yadira del Campo Acoustic Classics
  • 3:30 pm Ballet Folkorico dancers: Grupo Valle del Sol
  • 5:00 pm Plaza celebration ends

The event is sponsored by the Calavera Coalition, a nonprofit organization who has been coordinating the event in Mesilla since 1998. The coalition will be collecting food cans for the needy. Altar builders are asked to donate five cans if possible.

For more information contact the Peggy King from the Calavera Coalition at (575) 639-1385 or by email at calaveracoalition@gmail.com.

Additional information can also be found at the Town of Mesilla at (575) 524-3262.

The lovely calavera artwork shared in this blog was dreamed up and created by one of Las Cruces’ talented own: Anahy Nuñez. See more of Nuñez’s artwork and body painting here and on Instagram.[minti_spacer height="50"]