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Why Dia De Los Muertos is so misunderstood

With skulls, altars and candles as part of Dia De Los Muertos celebrations, many wonder what it all really means.

Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that is celebrated on the first two days of November. 

But because you see a lot of skulls, candles and altars as part of the celebrations—a lot of people have misconceptions about what the  Day of the Dead is really all about.

Team 12 made a visit Barrio Queen in Desert Ridge Marketplace to find out the meaning behind Dia De Los Muertos.

 “It’s for every culture. We want you to come in and experience Mexican culture,” said Magaly Calderon.

Calderon is in charge of cultural education at Barrio Queen in Phoenix and says Dia De Los Muertos brings up a lot of questions. 

“It’s a celebration of life, so we basically build this altar for the people who aren’t with us anymore, and we offer them the things they used to love like beer, candy, tequila and pictures,” said Calderon.

Their restaurant will be adorned with an altar that is an eclectic mix of pictures of loved ones, favorite mementos and foods like Pan de Muerto, Pan Dulce or anything else that reminds you of them. 

The holiday is closely connected to Catholicism, so the Virgin Mary is sure to be a part.  

Calderon’s husband, Julio Mata, is the head chef at Barrio Queen and says he’s using the two days to honor his grandmothers, who taught him everything he knows about Mexican Cuisine. 

“Everything I know I owe to my grandmothers from my mom’s side and my dad’s side. The food and culture really go together, so we bring out a lot of food for the holiday. There will be some special menu items including our signature dishes, like mole enchiladas filled with chicken and queso, elote, pork chile green verde - cooked with serrano peppers, shrimp ceviche, tableside guac, short ribs, chiles en nogades and roasted poblano filled with cheese, fruits and nuts,” said Mata.

Manager Pamela Gabos, who is originally from Mexico, says the celebration also includes a lot of fun. 

“This event is going to be so much fun; we’ll have face painting, mariachis, dancers, we’ll have a balloon artist, we’ll have a 10-foot skeleton walking around,” said Gabos. 

So remember, Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of life and the good things loved ones brought to the world. “

A lot of people will look at the skulls and think, 'Wow, oh my gosh, it’s so scary.' But really, it’s a beautiful and lovely spiritual holiday and great to share that with your family and friends,” said Gabos.

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