These are two essential elements of any altar for the dead, as are the marigolds (cempasuchil) that decorate them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Manu Bastien, my son-in-law, took this photo. It's a perfect illustration of how tourist-oriented the celebration in Oaxaca has become.
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.
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.