The Short List: A Bilingual Day of the Dead

Mexico celebrates the Dia de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") holiday on Tuesday and Wednesday, when many families honor their ancestors with outings to cemeteries. Maria Elena Fernandez, Chicano studies professor at California State University, offers a bilingual primer of all the things needed for an altar to guide the dead to the celebrations.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

Time now for one of our short lists. These are little radio puzzles. See if you can figure out how the following phrases are connected before we get to the answer at the end.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ (Professor/Performance Artist): (Spanish spoken)

Any corner of your desk or dresser or maybe the entire dining room table.

(Spanish spoken)

A rebozo or any piece of fabric in a really good color, purple, turquoise or maybe both.

(Spanish spoken)

Little black and white photo of Abuelita Victoria, all serious in her wedding dress.

(Spanish spoken)

The big framed photograph of Abuelito Shilo(ph), one eye already faded, but wearing a huge charro hat.

(Spanish spoken)

All the marigolds that can possibly fit.

(Spanish spoken)

A few candles.

(Spanish spoken)

A couple of sugar skulls, if you can get them.

(Spanish spoken)

A little plastic horse for Abuelita, who loved life on the ranch.

(Spanish spoken)

Some wooden spoons for Abuelita, because she was such a good cook.

(Spanish spoken)

Mexican sweetbread for them to eat.

(Spanish spoken)

And lots of faith that the aroma of the marigolds will guide them home to visit us again this year.

(Spanish spoken)

Everything you need for your Day of the Dead altar.

(Soundbite of music)

ADAMS: Maria Elena Fernandez is a professor and performance artist living in Los Angeles. Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a Mexican folk holiday. Instead of mourning, the grim reaper is pushed aside by dancing skeletons, and people celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have died with family, food and music.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Noah Adams.

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