LIFESTYLE

Zarela Martinez's Día de los Muertos Altars
To Mexicans, the Los Días de los Muertos holiday is neither ghoulish nor morbid. It is a joyous celebration of memory and an opportunity to catch up with those who are dear to you. Here, a few of the amazing altars I've seen.
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Skull with Bread

These are two essential elements of any altar for the dead, as are the marigolds (cempasuchil) that decorate them.

(Jeanine Thurston, Fototails Photography)

Altar for My Mother

My mother, Aida Gabilondo, was a force of nature, a dynamic woman and my inspiration. Her altar actually consisted of two parts, because there were so many facets of her life and personality that I wanted people to know about.

(Zarela Martinez)

Los Santos, México City

I have access to the press photo file of the Mexican tourism board where I found this amazing photo. I’m afraid that I've never spent the Days of the Dead in Los Santos. The use of so many candles was new to me.

(Consejo de Promoción Turística de México)

Altar for Paul Newman

Newman and his family had several parties at my restaurant, Zarela. I got to know them pretty well, especially his daughters Nell and Lizzy. They used my book, “Food from my Heart” to develop some of their Mexican dishes for the Newman's Own line.  

(Zarela Martinez)

Altar for Max Clemente

Max was the first photographer that made me look and feel beautiful. He didn't take endless rolls of film, maybe 6 photos at the most. You never got tired and it was a true pleasure. He was fun; he was sweet; he was always late and left us too early.

(Zarela Martinez )

Modern Face-Painting

Wearing make-up this way is one of the things young Mexican-Americans are doing to make the holiday their own. With the help of a make-up artist, a model and photographer Jeanine Thurston, Yvette Marquez created this look for her Muy Bueno Cookbook blog.

(Jeanine Thurston, Fototails Photography)

Altar for Robert Palmer

The second time Robert Palmer came into my restaurant he ordered a chile relleno stuffed with a chicken and fruit picadillo with roasted tomato sauce. Before he tasted it, I noticed that it seemed as if he was praying. I went over to ask if anything was wrong. He said: "I’m just saying 'Please God, let it taste like the time before!'" We became good friends and my daughter Marissa and I spent many wonderful evenings with him. We were heartbroken when he died suddenly in 2003, at such a young age.

(Zarela Martinez)

Two 'Skeletons' Dancing

Manu Bastien, my son-in-law, took this photo. It's a perfect illustration of how tourist-oriented the celebration in Oaxaca has become.

(Manu Bastien at manuphoto.com)

Altar for Budd Schulberg

The screenwriter behind “On the Waterfront,” “A Face in the Crowd,” “The Disenchanted” and many others was a very close friend and one of the most, interesting, entertaining and lovely people I've ever met. He took a child-like pleasure in everything. He was immensely curious and observed everything and everyone intently in a non-judgmental way. I loved him.

(Zarela Martinez)

Zarela Martinez's Día de los Muertos Altars

To Mexicans, the Los Días de los Muertos holiday is neither ghoulish nor morbid. It is a joyous celebration of memory and an opportunity to catch up with those who are dear to you. Here, a few of the amazing altars I've seen.

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