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¡Viva la Fiesta! Mexican Traditions of Celebration: The Personal Fiestas

Bancroft Gallery Exhibit Oct. 2017 - Feb. 2018

Baptism, Marriage, and Death

Fiestas forge traditional relationships between family members and their extended communities. Compadrazgo (co-godparenthood) fortifies the religious bonds created at the celebration of Catholic sacraments, especially those of baptism and marriage. These familial ties are made visible in the altars and commemorations of the Día de muertos (Day of the Dead) as families, friends, and neighbors gather to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed. 

Ofrenda de día de muertos / Day of the Dead Altar

Celebrations of Baptisms and Marriage

The celebrations of godparenting reinforce communal relationships. The ties of compadrazgo (co-godparenthood) are strongest in four of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (celebrated through a First Communion) and Marriage. The first three celebrate the initiation of a person’s Catholic faith and formation. Although no sacrament is ranked higher than the other, baptisms and marriages carry special significance as they strengthen traditional communal ties through the incorporation of new members and the joining of other families to the greater community. In Mexico, baptismal and marriage fiestas incorporate indigenous traditions into the Catholic rites, including pre-conquest rituals of compadrazgo and regional foods like mole (sauces) and turkey.


“Registro de matrimonios y bautismos. Acatlán, México,” 1569-1621

[Register of Marriages and Baptisms. Acatlan, Mexico]



“Libro de casamientos y entierros,” 1660-1672

[Register of Marriages and Deaths]

BANC MSS 71/20 m


“Diligencias matrimoniales del señor don Carlos Tadeo O'Gorman y doña Ana María Noriega de Vicario,” 1825

[Marriage File of Mr. Carlos Tadeo O’Gorman and Ms. Ana María Noriega de Vicario]


José Guadalupe Posada

Unas lindas mañanitas a las muchachas bonitas, 1911

[Morning Songs for Beautiful Young Women]

BANC PIC 2010.025--ffALB, Box 3:HC-38


Manuel Romero de Terreros

Torneos, mascaradas y fiestas reales en la Nueva España, [1918]

[Tournaments, Masquerades, and Royal Festivals in New Spain]



Juan Rulfo

Pedro Páramo, 2016

f PQ7297.R89 P413 2016

Día de Muertos

On the evening of the feast of All Saints (November 1), families prepare home altars and visit the cemeteries to keep vigil for their loved ones who have passed away. The following day, often called Día de muertos (Day of the Dead) or Día de los fieles difuntos (Day of the Faithful Departed, also known as All Souls’ Day, liturgically), families gather to celebrate a Mass and perform syncretic ceremonies, blending precolonial traditions with Catholic rites, to honor their loved ones. These celebrations vary widely according to the indigenous presence in the community, as some adhere to traditions passed down from generations while others incorporate more contemporary elements in their fiestas. Regardless, several items have become essential: calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls), cempohualxochitl (cempasúchil or Mexican marigolds), offerings of food and drink, ceras (tall wax candles), and, in some regions, traditional music.


“Registro de entierros,” 1632-1734

[Burial Register]



Joaquín Bolaños

La portentosa vida de la muerte, 1792

[The Marvelous Life of Death]

PQ7296.B7 P67 1792


Cementerio de Santa Paula, 1841

[Cemetery of Santa Paula]



Madame Frances Erskine Inglis Calderón de la Barca

Life in Mexico, 1843

[La vida en México]



José Guadalupe Posada

Panteón antiguo - Epitafios, [undated]

[Ancient Cemetery - Epitaphs]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 5:C-22


José Guadalupe Posada

Funebres recuerdos de Ponciano, el distinguido torero mexicano. [undated]

[Mournful Memories of Ponciano, the Distinguished Mexican Bullfighter]

pf PQ7260.C6 no.456


José Guadalupe Posada

Gran baile de calaveras, 1906

[Grand Dance of the Skulls]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 5:C-40


José Guadalupe Posada

Ultimos versos de Lino Zamora, traidos del Real de Zacatecas, 1911

[The Legitimate Verses to Lino Zamora, Published from the Real de Zacatecas Bullring]

pf PQ7260.C6 no.441


Fototeca MacAdam

Días de muertos, 1922

[Days of the Dead]

BANC PIC 2010.030--PIC:1


Fototeca MacAdam

Días de muertos, 1924

[Days of the Dead]

BANC PIC 2010.030--PIC:3


Fototeca MacAdam

Días de muertos, 1925

[Days of the Dead]

BANC PIC 2010.030--PIC:4


Judy Dater

Town of Zachilla, Mexico, 1 October 2009 - La Asuncion, Funeraria

[Funeraria “La Asunción” en Villa de Zaachila, Oaxaca, México]

BANC PIC 2014.057--AX:21


Palabras al aire (f NE1334.M49 P35 2017)

Juan Eduardo Salinas Mora, "Alma Marcela Silva de Alegría" in Palabras al aire. Carpeta de obra gráfica, 2017

[Words in the Air: A Portfolio of Graphic Works]

f NE1334.M49 P35 2017