Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Day of the Dead 2020 - Papel Picado Tutorial

Learn how to create your own papel picado, a traditional paper art found during the Day of the Dead. In this video tutorial, New Orleans artist Cynthia Ramirez, professor at Southern University of New Orleans walks us through how to create your own papel picado. Recorded October, 2020.

Explore el Día de los Muertos with our online curriculum Day of the Dead Across the Americas. The introduction to the unit is below.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of ancestors found throughout Latin America. Día de los Muertos is celebrated differently throughout Latin America, with the Mexican traditions being most familiar to US residents. Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, is celebrated on All Saints and All Souls Days, an important part of Catholic traditions. Other aspects of the tradition come from pre-Hispanic roots, in Mexico, or influence of west African cultures, in much of the Caribbean.

Día de los Muertos is a time of remembrance and celebration of departed ancestors. It is a family holiday where people gather to remember loved ones and celebrate them. One of the most important traditions is the construction of altars to the dead. The altars are constructed in homes, in public places, and in cemeteries. Families also go to cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of loved ones. In some places, people spend the night at the cemeteries in all-night celebrations.

Altars traditionally include items such as the favorite food and drink of the people the altar is dedicated to, representations of skulls (these can be made of sugar, paper, or any other sort of material), bread, pan de muertos, in the shape of bones and skulls, papel picado, cut paper, and Calaveras, or representations of skeletons. In Mexico, marigolds are traditionally used for decoration due to their smell. They were associated with death in pre-hispanic times and that association continues. The items placed on the altar are called ofrendas, or offerings.

Calavaras, or skeleton representations, come in many forms and styles. The term calavaras is also used to refer to the work of Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913). Posada, a famous Mexican artist and political cartoonist, is most well-known for his representations of skeletons dressed in fancy cloths which were meant to satirize upper class individuals. These representations have been adapted for use in Day of the Dead traditions, particularly his famous Calavera Catrina, a female skeleton wearing a large floppy hat.

The Mexican Día de los Muertos tradition is based in large part on Aztec traditions. The Aztec, a people who lived in Central Mexico (Figure 1) at the time of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, celebrated a feast to honor their ancestors that occurred around the same time as All Saints and All Souls Day. These two traditions were mixed together and became the tradition we now associate with Día de los Muertos, a syncretic tradition. The Aztec celebration which occurred around this time was dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl who ruled over the land of the dead with her husband.

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Upcoming Events

Final Push Fridays: Graduate Research & Writing Support

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Every Friday from 10am-12pm CDT, The Latin American Library and Stone Center are co-hosting a virtual work-along for Latin Americanist graduate students to support each other in their research and writing goals. The Zoom meeting has two break-out options: participants may choose to troubleshoot research and methodological questions with an LAL librarian and/or work towards their writing objectives alongside a community of their peers. We hope you will join us when you can!

Central America, People and the Environment Educator Institute 2021

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This summer educator institute is the third institute in a series being offered by Tulane University, The University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. This series of institutes is designed to enhance the presence of Central America in the K-12 classroom. Each year, participants engage with presenters, resources and other K-12 colleagues to explore diverse topics in Central America with a focus on people and the environment.

While at Tulane, the institute will explore the historic connections between the United States and Central America focusing on indigenous communities and environment while highlighting topics of social justice and environmental conservation. Join us to explore Central America and teaching strategies to implement into the classroom.

Additional details and registration will be available in the late fall 2020. For more information, please email dwolteri@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.