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Mi Patrimonio By Jaxi Cohen

Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead,” which occurs from Nov. 1 to 2, is a Mexican holiday honoring the dead. It reunites and reinforces the connection between the living and our ancestors. Unlike in other cultures, Mexicans embrace death. The barrier between life and death is not as thick, and our deceased relatives are always around us. However, during Día de los Muertos, the barrier is especially thin, and the presence of our ancestors grows stronger than ever. Surrounded by our loved ones, both living and dead, Día de los Muertos is a time for celebration.

In dedication to Día de los Muertos and Latinx Heritage Month, which ended on Oct. 15, I have captured what these events mean to me through photography. Below is a collection of folk art, traditional garments, figurines, customs, and decorations passed down from my ancestors. —Jaxi Cohen

Papel picado, banners traditionally made of tissue paper with cutout designs, are used to adorn ofrendas, which are altars in memorial of the dead. They are also used to decorate streets, buildings, and in this case, my family’s backyard
These ceramic Mexican piggy banks, painted with floral designs, have no opening to retrieve the coins. In order to get the money, the piggy bank must be shattered, a tactic meant to encourage children to save their money. My grandmother gifted these piggy banks to my sisters and I years ago, and now they rest lined up on a shelf.
These colorful painted figurines are known as alebrijes. Meticulously carved and decorated, the animals and imaginary creatures are expressions of dreams and fantasies. My family’s collection of alebrijes consists of both handed-down figurines, and new ones brought back from trips to Mexico City, where my family is originally from.
My mother wraps herself in a rebozo, a shawl woven in a wide range of colors and patterns. It can be draped across the shoulders, as shown above, tied around the waist, or used as a sling to carry babies and toddlers. These methods of wrapping a rebozo have been passed down through generations of women in my family. Rebozos are not only a symbol of Latina pride to me, but also represent comfort and familial love.
To me, tortillas are not just a Mexican staple, but they are also a dedication to my family’s former tortilla factory, La Mexicana.
Skulls, or calaveras, are symbols of the both life and the afterlife. Because death is not thought of as something to fear, it is reflected in many pieces of folk art around my house.
Marigolds, the flower of the dead, are crafted from crepe paper and adorn my family’s ofrenda during Día de los Muertos, along with fresh flowers.
Mexican worry dolls are tiny embroidered dolls given to children, and sometimes adults, meant to ease anxiety and fear. It is said that if you place the dolls under your pillow and share your worries with them, they will take all your fears away in the night.
As a form of Mexican pride, this poster hangs in my family’s kitchen. I am a third-generation American, and I am forever grateful for the struggle of my immigrant great grandparents.