Day of the dead

Latin American Traditions: Altars And Dia De La Muertos

October 4, 2019Read More

Halloween in America is vastly different from Dia De La Meurtos In Latino Countries. While both focus on themes that encompass death, they have vastly different purposes. In the United States Halloween has taken on a secular commercialized nature. It features costumes but looks at death in almost brash jestful way, making caricatures of scary costumes and celebrating the holiday with movies that are designed to scare you, all from the safety of a theater or couch.

latin customs

Dia Del La Muertos follows lays down a sharp contrast to the playfulness and commercialism of this type of Halloween. First it starts the day after Halloween. It is not about fun, parties, scary movies, or a playful view of death. It focuses on a more spiritual aim. The goal is to honor deceased love ones. It is a sacred holiday that is about family and celebrating their lives.

There are many traditions surrounding this holiday. One tradition that is prominent is the use of altars to honor loved ones. The altar is a good symbol of the true purpose of this holiday. The altar is an offering place where family and friends make offerings to honor deceased relatives. You most often see these at the graveside or in homes.

latin traditions


Families construct altars at home and at gravesites to honor those that have passed. This can include a myriad of things like

  • Sweets
  • Photos
  • Symbolic items
  • Flowers
  • Bread
  • Candles
  • Tamales
  • Dolls
  • Assorted Toys

These can be very elaborate but it represents how different Dia De La Muertos is from American Halloween. The focus is on honoring and celebrating the departed. The altars are not necessarily designed to be sad. They are there to celebrate life in a tasteful way. Different Latin American or South American countries have different traditions that they do for this somber yet peaceful holiday. Regardless, you will see alters at many of them.



Day of the Dead altars: What’s on a traditional version. (2016, October 3). Retrieved from

Day of the Dead. (2001, October 28). Retrieved from



Day Of The Dead Food Traditions

October 20, 2017Read More

Halloween in America means Day of the Dead quickly follows in Latin America. Though only separated by a day, the Latin America Halloweentraditions of both form a stark contrast to the secular and Latino traditions. On the surface they may look a little similar but upon closer look, they are vastly different.

Latin American Food Traditions

One area, which you know I would address here, are the food traditions of Dia De La Muerta (Day of the Dead in Spanish). In North America food seems to based on the theme of secularity and fun. Candy passed out to children who are dressed as fictional ghoulish creatures is the main event followed by parties with junk food at every turn. Pizza, burgers, wings, and truckloads of sweets are the food of Halloween in North America. Death is almost mocked in this holiday, as well as any semblances of healthy food habits. In Latin America Day of the Dead is a serious holiday.

Day of the Dead is designed to honor the dead. It is a homage to family members past. This somber mood envelops just about every aspect of this November 1st Holiday. And included in this seriousness, is the food. The dishes made in the different Latin American countries have deep symbolic meaning.

Examples of Latin American Food Traditions

I pulled a few food and beverage customs and listed them here. This is not to say that there are not many important Latin America Halloweentraditions that are not culinary, I am just featuring a sampling of them here.


In Ecuador one custom is to bring a purple drink called Colada Morada to the gravesites of loved ones. This is accompanied by a sweet bread, which is in the shape of a baby.

El Salvador

In El Salvador festivities include a late night pumpkin dish with honey.


In Nicaragua candy, fruit, and bread accompany other offerings on the gravesites of the deceased.


You see a similar theme in some areas of Peru where sweet foods and bread are often brought graveside

But regardless of the food, you do not see humor or commercialization of the macabre. It is a holiday of honor, and the foods and drinks reflect this.

Article Citations

Damaly Gonzalez October 21, 2016 celebration, dia de los muertos, Festival, Holiday, indigenous people, latin america, mexican celebrations, Mexico, et al. “Día de los Muertos Celebrations in Latin America & Caribbean.” HipLatina, 15 June 2017,