Dia de los Muertos | St. Louis Public Radio

Dia de los Muertos

Lara Hamdan / St. Louis Public Radio

Traditional dresses and music, symbolic foods and colorful decorations are all part of a celebration of life — and death.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about a local observance of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday indigenous to Mexico and Central and South American countries. The holiday began October 31 and ends on November 2.

Elisa Bender, board member of the Hispanic Festival, Inc., said Día de Los Muertos is a celebration of life.

The owners of Diana's Bakery, at 2843 Cherokee, set up a Día de los Muertos altar honoring Mexican celebrities.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s a quiet night on Cherokee street where Minerva Lopez has lived for the past decade. She scans the blocks and breathes a heavy sigh.

“It makes me sad being here today,” Lopez laments in Spanish.  “In California we would have had a huge party.  Two hundred thousand people would take to the streets to celebrate Día de los Muertos.”  

Sugar skulls and flowers decorate an altar at Diana's Bakery on Cherokee Street.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Preparations for Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, among St. Louis Latino communities are already apparent up and down Cherokee Street and in many of the region’s Mexican businesses. Celebrated the first two days of November, the holiday has the same elements every year: altars, marigolds, sugar skulls — and people comparing the day to Halloween.

“Día de los Muertos isn’t Halloween! It’s not Halloween,” said Minerva Lopez, who lives on Cherokee Street. “We don’t dehumanize death. For us, death is our friend. We see it as something that will happen, and in the meantime that it’s not happening, we’re here to live.”