Dia de los Muertos


In Mexican culture it is customary to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a holiday that generally lasts about a week with parades, vibrant colors, music, and food.

This time is spent remembering, honoring, and celebrating those who have passed by creating an ofrenda (offering) of flowers, laying out the deceased’s favorite foods, decorating skulls, and displaying photos. Dia de los Muertos is known as a spiritual journey or an invitation back to the land of the living. These offerings are used to welcome or guide the spirits back home in an effort to spend a few more moments with loved ones.

Dia de los Muertos has always been deeply rooted in our culture. Looking back, it's no wonder why the concept of death has never been a taboo or scary topic.

Our family always talked about it openly, and, as seen above, our culture celebrates it. We grew up next to a cemetery and some big chapters of our lives occurred there. Some of my earliest memories are daily walks with my family in the cemetery, night or day. We went there to play, and our whole family learned how to ride a bike and drive our cars there. We now use that same cemetery to teach the younger generation how to do those same things. It's also important to know that in our neighborhood, the cemetery was, and still is, the largest, most accessible park. To us, it was 100% normal to see it and use it as a park or an open public space.

I find it quite strange to see how much of our city’s beautiful open green landscapes are dedicated to death, yet they remain incredibly underused.

During our most recent celebration of Dia de los Muertos, we took a weekend road trip, toured some cemeteries on the east coast, and found some beautiful parks. Below is a series of photos capturing lonely yet beautiful spaces.


Contrasting the above, cemeteries in other cultures and countries are quite the opposite.

Often the tombs that house the dead are more elaborate, extravagant, and beautiful than the actual house the person ever lived in. The deceased are visited regularly with flowers and new decorations. The cemetery or “panteon” is one of the most well kept spaces with a groundskeeper who maintains it at all hours of the day.

These places are landscapes rich with history, serving the public with additional greenspace.

For those of you interested in branching out to some of our city’s most beautiful spaces, check out the following:

  • Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn NY

  • St. Pauls Churchyard, Manhattan, NY (one of my personal favorites to walk through when i’m early to work)

  • Second Cemetery of Congregation, Manhattan NY

  • Third Cemetery of the Spanish- Portuguese Synagogue, Manhattan NY

  • St. Raymond New Cemetery, Bronx, NY

  • Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn NY

  • Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY

Olga Anaya, Associate AIA

Olga Anaya, Associate AIA

Olga AnayaHelen Zouvelekis