A Brief History of the Day of the Dead
Prior to contact with the Spanish, Mesoamerican cultures flourished. Mesoamericans had an intimate relationship with death; they accepted the inevitability of death and believed that spirits lingered in this world. Spirits were believed to be malicious if they lacked acknowledgement so people would provide spirits with offerings of gifts and daily ritual in order to assure their well-being and prosperity (Flores 6; Marchi 277)
In the early 1500s the Spanish began their conquest of Mesoamerica. Combining their forces with those of rebellious nations surrounding the capital of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City), the Spanish came forth as the victor; however; they were unable to eradicate indigenous religious beliefs and had to make concessions allowing for their practice along side the existing Catholic tradition of Allhallowtide. In 1810, after about a 300 yearlong occupation by the Spanish, Mexico gained its independence; however, this was not without Mestizaje, or the development of cultural hybridity (Flores 8). In the early 1900s the Mexican government made the Day of the Dead an official holiday.
Flores, Lulu. El Dia De Los Muertos: Austin's Viva La Vida Fest. Austin, TX: Mexic-Arte Museum, 2009. Web.
Marchi, Regina. "Hybridity and Authenticity in US Day of the Dead Celebrations." The Journal of American Folklore 126.501 (2013): 272-301. Web.
Ofrendas: a brief history and how-to guide