Mas México USA

Altar de muertos, a life metaphor that welcomes souls

Ever since hundreds of years ago, our country has celebrated and worshiped the dead through an altar. The purpose is remembering, feeding and showing respect to the souls that left this world.

For our ancestors and through a pre-hispanic point of view, dying was only the start of a journey to Mictlan, better known as the kingdom of death.


In this route, several deities decided over the soul’s destiny. They were first sent to one of the nine regions where they stood on trial for four years before passing along to their life in Mictlan.

Later on, they headed to the last level, the place for their eternal rest called the death’s obsidian.

Syncretism and celebration

This festivity merged with the catholic morality of the Spanish, giving as a result the Day of the Dead as we know it.

Given that Mexico is a multicultural country, this celebration has more than one meaning. This varies according on the town or group celebrating it, but there is just one tradition that represents us all, the altar.


This representation is fundamental in any Day of the Dead celebration. We believe that the spirits of our loved ones return from the underworld to have a feast and spend time with us one more time. Without the altar this could not be possible because it works as a guide and space that connects both worlds.

What does an altar must have?

There are certain elements that cannot be missing in an altar. First of all, it must have at least 7 levels, which represent the steps to heaven. A photo of a saint, meaningful to the family and the soul, must be placed on the first level.

The second level is for the purgatory’s souls, this one grants permission to the dead to go out and visit the living. Then, salt is placed on the third level as a symbol of purification.


The fourth level is for passing souls, usually bread, water and sugar are placed here. On the fifth level people put the soul’s favorite meals, beverages and fruits.

The photographs of the people to whom the altar is dedicated are placed on the sixth level. And last but not least, the last level is for objects, souvenirs or anything that may attract our loved one’s souls.

The most important Mexican tradition

The purpose of the altar is to invite the spirit to travel to our world from Mictlan. And many elements can be added, such as: copal to purify energies, papel picado to decorate and brighten up the altar, cempasúchil flowers, the aroma works as a guide to spirits. And of course, candles that give a guiding light to visitors.


Death in Mexico is a feeling that walks among us through each altar. We believe that by offering this celebration to those who have already passed away, we assure that, later on, we will all be invited too.


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In Más México we have a great team of professionals who seek to bring * you * the best and most current positive information about Mexico. During this difficult time, your support is very important to us. With your contribution, whatever the amount, you help us to continue showing you how wonderful this country is. And, at the same time, you contribute to spread the word about every individual that makes Mexico better with their talent. #WeAreMásMéxico #WeArePepePérez #BuyLocal

Barbara García

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