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Mexico’s Day of The Dead: Cempazuchitl Takes Center Stage

The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Latin America to honor the dead. It is normally celebrated between Nov. 1 and 2 when families gather to pay tribute to their deceased relatives and present them with offerings. In Mexico, the Day is makers bright yellow and orange, the color of the staple flower used throughout the celebration: the Cempazuchitl.

After learning her lover, Huitzilin was killed in a war, Xochitl asked the Aztec god Tonatiuh to reunite her with him. In response, the god turned her into a flower as bright as the sun. Minutes later, a hummingbird said to be the reincarnation of Huitzilin stood on the flower, which immediately bloomed. 

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Campesinos in Mexico harvest cempazuchitl flowers known as the Mexican or Aztec marigold. The flowers are used to decorate the offerings left for the dead.
Campesinos in Mexico harvest cempazuchitl flowers known as the Mexican or Aztec marigold. The flowers are used to decorate the offerings left for the dead. Photo:EFE
Mexico’s cemeteries are painted bright yellow and orange as relatives place them above the tombs of their loved ones.
Mexico’s cemeteries are painted bright yellow and orange as relatives place them above the tombs of their loved ones. Photo:EFE
According to legend, the story of the flower is the story of two dead lovers reuniting.
According to legend, the story of the flower is the story of two dead lovers reuniting. Photo:EFE
The flower is used in costumes.
The flower is used in costumes. Photo:EFE
They are also used in floats during Mexico
They are also used in floats during Mexico's city parade for the Day of the Dead. Photo:EFE
And in dresses.
And in dresses. Photo:EFE
Before the Aztecs, the people who lived in what is now the town of Malinalco used a similar but smaller flower named tonalxochitl, which was said to keep the sun
Before the Aztecs, the people who lived in what is now the town of Malinalco used a similar but smaller flower named tonalxochitl, which was said to keep the sun's warmth. Photo:EFE
Published 30 October 2018
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