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Why Decorate?

A family commemorating Dia de los Muertos in November 2006;Texas State University Applied Anthropology

Mexican American families are often characterized by what anthropologists call familism, or strong, intimate and intense connections between family members. Understandably, Mexican American cemeteries are one of the many places characterized by familism. It is here where families come to remember, commemorate and communicate with their deceased family members.

quinceañera, at gravesite; Texas State University Applied Anthropology

In this spirit, a family in San Antonio chose to honor their deceased daughter by celebrating what would have been their little girl’s fifteenth birthday, or quinceañera, at her gravesite. They did not want to forget or forgo this ritualized occasion that marks a young girls transition into adulthood.

A Personal Perspective

Marta's great grandfather, Papa Tavito, was born on September 8, 1890 and died on April 25, 1966. He is buried in Mexico. Her Grandmother Maria recalls that, “His funeral was very beautiful. Whenever someone died, it was the custom to hang white curtains in the window so the people would know there was a death in the family and come and pay their respects. The coffin was displayed in the living room and a candle placed on each corner. The priest came to the house and performed the funeral, after which everyone accompanied the coffin on foot to the burial site.” Interestingly, Papa Tavito made his own tombstone out of marble. He did all of the engravings himself, except for the day he died, which was carved by a close friend.