The Day of the Dead or Dia De Los Muertos originated in Mexico but was adopted here in Belize through our Maya and Mestizo Ancestors more than 150 years ago. It could be said to coincide quite loosely with the Halloween tradition of North America. In our culture, it is a part of Maya and Catholic tradition and encompasses All Saints Day on October 31st and All Souls Day on November 2nd. It is also known as Los Finados for those who have passed.
The belief is that death should be viewed as the final experience of life and is to be celebrated. Further, this tradition persists mostly in the Western Districts in Benque Viejo as well as in Maya and Mestizo Villages. It’s meant to honor ancestors, friends, and family members who have passed away, and especially children, who are especially revered for their innocence. During this time their spirits are said to roam and they must be received in celebration.
A table is set and laden with fruit, incense, rum, special tamales containing beans (“xpelon”) and photos of the dead, along with all their favorite food. “Xpasha” is the Maya name for a special drink distilled from corn, milk, and spices. In Spanish, it is known as ”atole”. Families gather and partake of food, tell anecdotes and play music, while friends and neighbors visit and offer prayers for the dead. The most iconic symbol is the skull (Calavera) painted in vibrant colors.
All this symbolizes all the earthly pleasures that the deceased have left behind and it is a comfort to their roaming spirits. During this time, it is also customary to visit the tombs of the dead, taking flowers and food to the cemetery.
All Maya and Mestizo communities celebrate Dia de los Muertos. That includes the northern Districts, in the west in Benque and Succotz, and the Kekchi Maya communities of Toledo. The Houses of culture throughout the country set up altars and communities come together to observe this tradition.