An altar for our dead

At the beginning of November we prepare our homes to receive the visit of our dead. We cook their favorite dishes, dust off their most beloved objects, decorate with flowers, seeds and aromas. We dialogue with our memory and revive their memory. We honor their journey on this earth and celebrate their lives.

As part of that “Welcome back home” we make the traditional altars for the dead. There are altars of different sizes and shapes, private in our living rooms or dining rooms, or public altars that adorn our cities. Each element of the altars has a deep meaning that embrace our culture: 


The salt is believed to purify the body of the deceased and allow them to transit into the dimension of the living.


The water is for the thirsty souls who have come a long way back home.


The light traces the path so that the deceased do not get lost and find their altar.


Aromatic elements such as copal and incense are taken directly from the pre-Hispanic ritual to purify the place.

Cempasuchil flower (Marigolds)

This flower is a symbol of celebration. Our ancestors used it for its vibrant colors both to trace paths and to indicate festivity.

Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto and the favorite dishes are added to the altar as a form of welcome and so that the soul can enjoy the feast.

Papel picado

Papel picado is an element that represents the wind. All the elements are somehow represented on the altar. The color of the chopped papers is a call to the souls.


Traditionally made of sugar or chocolate, they represent death and the sweetness of life.

Photo of the deceased

With a portrait of the loved one, the altar and everything on it is dedicated.

In addition to these elements, mats of different seeds and sawdust, alcoholic beverages, objects, tablecloths, clothes, crosses and as many more as the imagination reaches are added. What is a fact is that each altar is as unique as our loved one, each altar is a token of love.  

To experience the beauty and color of our altars visit San Miguel de Allende and celebrate life and the memory of the our dead.

¡Happy day of the Dead!

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