While waiting for my breakfast order at Taco Cabana this week, I noticed this bright, framed photo in the dining room. Amidst other colorful images of Mexican landmarks and landscapes, this distinctive display blended right in. It is, after all, filled with objects that have become iconic representations of Mexican culture. But these folk art effigies have direct connections to a deeply seated faith tradition, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The tradition is officially connected with the Catholic holy day of All Saints, or All Hallow’s Eve, from which we derive Halloween. The traditions of representing beloved deceased predate the church and were part of indigenous beliefs in Mexico. Special foods, symbols and artifacts adorn family altars to welcome the spirits. These forms, hand made skulls and skeletons, have become deeply ingrained in the culture and are becoming increasingly common in Texas and in many parts of the US.
So I ate my breakfast tacos with skeletons watching me from the wall. They weren’t there as a shrine, but it was a reminder that when we consider symbols of culture, the spiritual may not be far away.