It’s that time of year: Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead celebrant, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, Ca. Photo courtesy of Flickr
Day of the Dead celebrant, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, Ca. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Far from home, UA sophomore Gabriela Ruiz prepares to celebrate her second Dia de los Muertos away from her Mexican-American family.

Although the holiday is deeply rooted in family customs and traditions, Ruiz views the festivities as an opportunity to include her college friends in a side of her culture they have yet to experience.

Originated in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – is a tradition started by the Aztecs that honors the death of ancestors and Queen of the Underworld, the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Although Arizona may not be the root of the traditions, the celebrations of the holiday holds significant presence in Arizona.

The rich cultural festivities of Dia de los Muertos are becoming increasingly popular nationwide. A large, new festival honoring the holiday is coming this year to Coachella, Ca, where the popular music festival takes place annually. Dia de los Muertos USA will include live traditional music, an altar to pay tribute to the dead, and a live art exhibit. The well-known venue location is expected to attract a large crowed, particularly Californians and Arizonans within close proximity.

This year Arizona will see more Dia de los Muertos events state-wide than ever before. Everything from art exhibits, dance and musical performances, face painting, and a variety of festivals will be available for all ages. A few events throughout Arizona are:

Dia de los Muertos Matinee

Flagstaff, Nov. 1-2

Mesa Dia de los Muertos Festival

Includes food, merchandise, jewelry, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Oct. 25-26

Tucson 25th Annual All Souls Procession Weekend

Nov. 9, starts at 6 p.m.

Dia de los Muertos Festival/PHX

Includes music, dance, and theater performances. Oct. 26, 1-6 p.m.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration at Tlaquepaque

Sedona, Nov. 1-2

Dia de los Muertos – Desert Botanical Garden

Phoenix, Nov. 1-2

A Dia de los Muertos-inspired film called ‘Book of Life’ was just released to theaters last Friday and has received high praise for its plot, musical score, animation and accuracy in the betrayal of the Mexican culture. In ABS-CBN News writer Fred Hawson’s review of the movie, he said, “There are a lot of Latino values being tackled here about friendship and family, the status of women, the respect for the dead, etc.”

Gabriela believes the holiday has a universal appeal because it is a series of festivities meant to honor – rather than mourn – the dead. Ruiz says that although the traditions she celebrates at home are different from those she participates in while at the U of A, the meaning of the holiday is not lost to her. Back at home, her family gets together on Dia de los Muertos and enjoys a big meal, plays music and stay up late into the night while telling stories of deceased relatives. Ruiz said, “Every year more and more of my friends get into [Dia de los Muertos]. It’s fun showing them a side of my culture they’re aren’t really familiar with.”

Julianne Boisvert is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *