The Day of the dead by Frederik Trovatten on Exposure
In the 16th century, the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Mexico, and quickly considered the Dia de Los Muertos to be sacrilegious, and tried their best to ban it. The ritual, dating to the Aztec and Toltec people some three centuries back, was not easily stopped and the Spaniards' efforts only succeeded in strengthening it.
Similar to other indigenous belief systems and rituals, the Dia de los Muertos merged with elements of the imported Christianity, thus achieving a form of syncretism with the invaders' religion. Originally celebrated in the summer, it moved to the first two days of November to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
In 2008, the Dia de los Muertos was recognized by UNESCO which added the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is an extremely social holiday that spills into streets and public squares at all hours of the day and night.
For the Aztec and Toltec pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase of life. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit, and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Nowadays, people flock to cemeteries to be with the souls of the dead, and build private altars with photographs of the dead, and their favorite foods and beverages. The gatherings are often joyous in tone, and the families remember the lives of the departed.