These songs transcend lifetimes.
Día de los Muertos is about remembering the dead, celebrating their lives, and acknowledging the pain of losing loved ones.
It's a sacred day in Mexico and parts of South America, and it's very much not Halloween.
For Day of the Dead, we've compiled a selection of traditional and contemporary Mexican folk songs meant to honor the holiday, as well as everyone who has made the passage over to the other side.
You might know the last one, "Remember Me," from the film Coco, but Day of the Dead has inspired countless traditional songs, poems, and brilliant works of art. Ultimately, attendees at typical Day of the Dead celebrations will often play the kind of music that their departed loved ones enjoyed, so if you're looking to honor departed loved ones on this day, you might just want to spin their favorite tunes. That said, the Mexican folk music tradition is rich in tradition and sublime in sound, and some of these songs are too gorgeous not to share.
Remember, though, if you're not part of the culture that celebrates this holiday, be careful if, when, and how you decide to partake in this day. Make sure you're not appropriating these cultures, avoid wearing costumes, do some research on the holiday and its meaning and sacredness, and support Mexican artists and causes.
1. La Llorona
This folk song's origins are wrapped in obscurity, but it is known that the song originated a long time ago in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. In 1941, the composer Andres Henestrosa popularized the song. There are numerous modern versions, with everyone from Chavela Vargas to Lila Jones lending their voices and finger-picking skills to the track.
The tune's lyrics are said to come from the original legend of La Llorona, the ghostly "Weeping Woman" of Mexican and South American folklore. Some of the verses were probably written during the Mexican Revolution, and today, it's frequently used to scare children into going to bed. Since it tells the story of a ghost (or a woman who won't allow her lover to leave her, depending on the interpretation), it's a natural fit for Día de los Muertos.
La llorona , Chavela Vargas www.youtube.com
2. La Bruja
Just as La Llorona tells the story of a wicked, ghostly woman, so does La Bruja, which translates loosely to "The Witch." According to legend, La Bruja is a kind of witch that sucks blood like a vampire. Lyrically, like La Llorona, it's also been interpreted as being about a woman who goes out on the hunt for a man, though there are many legends about what its lyrics might be trying to say. Most of the song is from the perspective of someone getting stolen by a witch. Some believe it references the old folk story that witches would dance with candles on their heads, making it look like the candles were floating; others believe it has more ominous implications, but it's really up to the listener.
The song is often used as a children's rhyme, but it's also been gorgeously covered by many artists.
Vincente Chavarria | La Bruja | AEA Sessions www.youtube.com
3. Calaveritas — Ana Tijoux, Celso Piña
This song was released by Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux to honor the dead, specifically those lost during the Pinochet dictatorship. The title, "Calaveritas," means "little skulls," and it's full of loving messages for those whose lives were lost. Recorded with Mexican musician Celso Piña, it's a blend of traditional, folk, and experimental sounds with a powerful message. "We all carry within us / one who died before us / who appears when night falls and the sun goes out," read some of the lyrics. It also includes a quote from a revolutionary named Pierre Dubois who opposed Pinochet during his regime: "It is not enough to say that justice takes time but it arrives. Justice that is not exercised when appropriate is already unfair."
Ana Tijoux - Calaveritas www.youtube.com
4. Amor Eterno
This song was written in 1984 by Mexican singer Juan Gabriel and quickly became the most popular song for funerals in his native country. It's a rich, sad, and nostalgic piece, one that pays tribute to loves of old while acknowledging the pain of loss in the present. It's been covered magnificently by countless artists, but Silvana Estrada's version is incredibly moving in its delicacy and compassion.
Juan Gabriel - Amor Eterno (En Vivo [Desde el Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes]) www.youtube.com
This well-known song has a way of reappearing in times of need. After the shooting in El Paso, Texas this summer, the song became a staple at funerals and memorial services. "How I wish that you still lived that your precious eyes had never closed so that I could see them eternal love unforgettable," go the lyrics, which ensure that there's never a dry eye when this song is played.
5. Remember Me, Coco
This movie beautifully portrayed Día de los Muertos and was tied together by the gorgeous ballad "Remember Me." In the film, the song is capable of crossing the boundary between life and death, forming an everlasting bond that keeps memories alive and inspires new generations to continue old legacies. It perfectly captures the message of Día de los Muertos: Even after our loved ones say goodbye, they're kept alive by memories and in song, and that's something to celebrate.
Carlos Rivera - Recuérdame (De "Coco"/Versión de Carlos Rivera/Official Video) www.youtube.com
Benjamin Bratt - Remember Me (Official Video From "Coco") [Ernesto de la Cruz] www.youtube.com
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There's a big problem with the trailer for Morbius, Sony's upcoming Marvel outing that is definitely not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even though it has Michael Keaton reprising his role as Vulture (please let us keep our license, Disney!).
See if you can spot it.
MORBIUS - Teaser Trailer www.youtube.com
If you answered, "Sampling Beethoven's 'Für Elise' to line up with blue-tinted action shots is the absolute lowest effort, brain-dead attempt to signify 'gothic vampire movie' in the entire history of movie trailers," you're correct, but that's still not the biggest problem with Morbius. No, the biggest problem is that Morbius is played by Jared Leto.
We honestly can't tell. Can't we just #CancelBarbie?
Mattel refuses to be canceled, no matter what feminists, child psychologists, or modern consumers say.
The Barbie-manufacturer has been revamping their classic line of unrealistic dolls since 2016 when they released a Barbie Fashionista collection including three new body types: "tall," "petite," and "curvy." This year, Mattel's cashing in on female empowerment and calls for cultural diversity by releasing dolls modeled after Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, and, as the company recently confirmed, the Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead BarbieKTVU
For decades, Mattel sold dangerously unrealistic body standards to American children. Barbie's real-world proportions are estimated to be 5' 9" tall and 110 lbs, with a BMI of 16.24, which is to say that fewer than 1 in 100,000 women are genetically capable of reaching that level of emaciation. So it's understandable why Mattel wants to pivot towards more diverse and inclusive bodies in the Barbie line, especially after their sales dipped in 2018, with reported losses of over $200 million.
So far, it seems to be working. Recent reports indicate that Barbie sales have reached a five-year high this year, suggesting that their new designs are catching on with modern consumers. The new designs are part of Mattel's Inspiring Women series, which is based on historical figures who made significant contributions to society. Each doll comes with educational material about each woman's contributions. Just a few weeks ago, the official Barbie Twitter account announced, "We're adding two courageous women to the #Barbie Inspiring Women Series – Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks, and the first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride."
We’re adding two courageous women to the #Barbie Inspiring Women Series – Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks, and th… https://t.co/VyG2f4PoX3— Barbie (@Barbie)1566842410.0
More recently, the Spanish language news source EFE Agency reported on the new "Barbie Día de Muertos," due for release September 12. The "Day of the Dead" doll is dedicated "to Mexico, its festivities, its symbols, and its people," according to the translated statement. "Her dress is long, embroidered and frilly decorated with flowers and butterflies. The final touch is completed by a crown with the iconic monarch butterflies and the cempasuchil flower to honor, above all, the symbols and offerings of this emblematic Mexican tradition."
While some limited editions of Barbie have occasionally celebrated diverse cultures, usually reserved for limited holiday release, Mattel is riding an unclear line between inclusivity and cultural appropriation. For instance, after Mattel released its Frida Kahlo doll last year, many people pointed out its problematic representation of the iconic Mexican artist. Kahlo's great-niece, Mara de Anda Romeo, even took the company to court over Mattel's right to use her image; she also panned how they whitewashed the doll. "I would have liked the doll to have traits more like Frida's, not this doll with light-colored eyes," Romeo told AFP News Agency.
I’m all for the día de los muertos Barbie doll. It’s spreading culture. They use to release SO many different barbi… https://t.co/3Eyx6jvLRg— Gabriella ❀ (@Gabriella ❀)1567047729.0
Other responses on Twitter criticize the company for capitalizing on Latinx culture in more mainstream media, such as Amazon's Vida, Disney's Coco, and Netflix's One Day at a Time. One user posted, "We got Dia de Los Muertos Barbie but also brown girls in cages... 💀😑"
We got Dia de Los Muertos Barbie but also brown girls in cages... 💀😑 https://t.co/mbBvEdnRTl— Chosen Juan (@Chosen Juan)1566967154.0
Día de los Muertos Barbie is Coming Soon and Latinx Twitter Has A Lot to Say https://t.co/L3DMdzXAyw 🤣🤣😂😂😂 I'm not… https://t.co/EaP7xJdrUp— Tempest McGee (@Tempest McGee)1567241028.0
Día de los Muertos Barbie. I have lots of thoughts. First of all, it is known that I love all skeletons, skulls, &… https://t.co/mFjVLT3ghv— liz•eth (@liz•eth)1567094736.0
Regardless, the Day of the Dead doll is sold out at the hefty pre-order price of $75. In addition to Mattel's other Inspiring Women designs and a whopping 33 "size-inclusive" Barbie dolls released since 2016, Mattel seems to have successfully monetized female empowerment and cultural appreciation. To be honest, we'd count this as a progressive step forward if not for Mattel calling its new line "Sheroes" (because, apparently, if a hero is female, then we have to invent a new word to wrap our minds around it).
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