More than 250,000 people of Mexican heritage live in Georgia. They bring with them not only a different language, but a variety of customs and beliefs that enrich Georgia’s culture. The Day of the Dead is one of them. Lisabet Sanchez, who lives in Cumming, joins her mother Amalia in preparing a special altar in memory of her sister who died as an infant. Together they set out flowers, candles, fruit, and cookies. Amalia Sanchez says that her baby never had a chance to taste sweets so they always provide candy and cookies on her altar. Mrs. Sanchez does it because she wants to preserve the tradition that is part of their heritage. Many people join in the Day of the Dead celebration at Atlanta’s Mexican Cultural Center on November 1–2. It is a little like Halloween, not only because of the date, but also because skeletons are used to represent death. Korey Gotoo, an artist born in Mexico who now lives in Georgia, shows off her altar to Frida Kahlo, another Mexican artist. Candles are present to light the way for spirits coming from far away. She shows a sugar skull that children can eat and explains its purpose is to remove any fear of death. Gotoo explains that Mexicans have a sense of humor about death. Images from the festival in Mexico show families cleaning and decorating gravesites in preparation for a night in the graveyard to welcome returning spirits. Gotoo thinks it is a very special time when her dead relatives visit to let her know all is well.
Teacher tip: Every culture has its own special traditions. Lead a class discussion of Day of the Dead activities shown in this Georgia Story, and ask students to give reasons why the holiday would be a reassuring time for families.