Celebrate Dia de los Muertos, so they RIP

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What is Day of the Dead a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world. The holiday focuses on celebrating the life of those that have passed, to pray for them, and help support their spiritual journey. We celebrate their life and support their journey so they can rest in peace.

Traditionally, the departed children or babies are remembered on November 1, (Dia de los Inocentes), and November 2 focuses on the departed adults (aka All Souls Day). There is nothing somber or scary about the holiday. The dead come as spirits from another world to be with their living relatives and to visit in their homes. They do not come to scare or haunt as we believe Halloween spirits do.  Dia de los Muertos is a special and unique holiday, it’s a great opportunity to expose yourself or your children to learn about other cultures.  I’ve listed at the end of this blog several activities and events around the twin cities that you can participate or attend. This video does an amazing job of depicting the spirit of Dia de muertos  in a 3min video, watch

How to celebrate Dia de los Muertos? 
Building an ofrenda is the traditional and most common way to remember and honor a dear one that has passed.  Some also go the tombstone of the deceased and decorate the ofrenda and celebrate right at the cemetary, in Mexico this is common, family and friends gather and sing, eat, and remember the deceased in a joyous manner.

If you are going to build an ofrenda, an altar to entice the deceased to come visit, traditionally, there are several components to include in building the ‘ofrenda’ (the “offerings”) .  One of the most common elements are marigolds, or Flor del Muerto – Flower of the Dead. The flowers are thought to bring out the dead souls to feast on the offerings laid on the table or headstone.

The marigold came with Spanish traders to Africa and Europe. Wanting to disconnect it from the flower’s past, the breeding programs held in Africa and Europe gave this great flower the name of “African” and “French” marigold. After the flower was disconnected from its past reputation as the flower of death, it was introduced into the gardens of the world.

Today the flowers are prized by gardeners the world over for their long lived blooms that love the heat of summer. They are to be found in gardens across the world, a testament to the wonder of this wonderful flower of the dead.

The marigold most commonly used in Dia de los Muertos celebrations is the Targetes erecta or African Marigold, otherwise known as cempasúchil or flower of the dead. They will  remove the petals from the flower and spread them on the ground to make a path to the house and to the grave.  The pungent aroma of the marigold and the bright color of the yellow petals will guide the spirit to the home altar (ofrenda) and to the cemetery.  Marigolds are also fashioned into elaborate arches for display on altars and graves. In some villages, people leave a trail of marigolds from their front door to their loved one’s grave, so that the deceased may easily find their way back home again. The attractive scent of the marigold is said to draw them back to earth for the yearly Dia de los Muertos reunion.
Since prehispanic times, this plant has had medicinal purposes and it is thought to cure stomach ache, parasites, diarrhea, liver illnesses, vomiting, and toothache among other illnesses. The flowers are still used in many areas to cure these and other ailments. All of these illnesses are said to be cured by a tea made from the flowers, eating the flowers, or wearing the flowers.


Salt and water are also essential; they are set to quench the thirst of the souls, tired from their long trip. Water also purifies and cleanses.

Incense, Copal, is burned and thought to elevate  prayers to God. Pan de Muerto the breads are placed on shrines and altars as offerings for the deceased and are given to visitors arriving for the celebration. Pan de Muerto is shaped like a funeral mound…with a few extra bumpy protrusions. The ball and strips of dough decorating the top of the loaf represent the skull and limbs of the muerto peeking through the top of the mound. We like this summary best: The bones represent the disappeared one (difuntos or difuntas) and there is normally a baked tear drop on the bread to represents tears for the living. The bones are represented in a circle to portray the circle of life. It is sweet, fluffy, decorated in sugar, and most traditionally flavored with anise, cinnamon, and/or an orange zest flavor.  Pan de Muerto is available in our panaderia 


Papel picado is present as a symbol of wind/air, candles to light the way of the deceased.  And favorite items, foods, beverages, hobbies are also commonly displayed on the altar of the deceased.
The most familiar symbol of Dia de los Muertos may be the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear everywhere during the holiday: in candied sweets, as parade masks, as dolls. Calacas and calaveras are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy clothes and entertaining situations.

Mini Calaca
All of these items can be found at El Burrito Mercado, every year we build an ofrenda and keep it on display through mid November.  Our creative Resident Artist & Decorator, Denisea Elsola does an amazing job every year,  visit us and get inspired.   We hope you will consider building your own ofrenda and partake in this colorful celebration of life!



Milissa Silva-Diaz





One Stop Dia de los Muertos Shop

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Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos a unique holiday celebrated in Mexico that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  In Mexico, especially Oaxaca, this holiday is celebrated still in the most traditional manner.  There is an abundance of heritage and history in Oaxaca and Dia de los Muertos is the most celebrated there in its traditional manner, here is information about the celebrations in Oaxaca The tradition is also celebrated in other parts of Mexico, and over the past several years also into USA.  However, in the states, Dia de los Muertos has become very trendy and appreciated more for its unique and artistic nature of the decor and oddly, attractive eeriness.  Many people still do not understand the meaning of it and because of the skulls assume it something with an evil or halloween correlation, and as a matter of fact, it is a beautiful way to celebrate those that have passed, and it precedes the Catholic religious dates of All Souls Day & All Saints Day.

The holiday is also celebrated in other Latino countries, in Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.

Dia de los Muertos is a holiday I’m glad to see has earned it’s way to this north of the states, it has gained popularity and is a cultural holiday many are curious to learn more about.  Dia de los Muertos holiday is transferred into a culmination of artistic creativity and celebrations that are now expressed in so many unique and inventive ways, both in mainstream markets and chain stores like Target to individual interpretation art.

In summary, the holiday is known for its unique traditions with traces to the indigenous, the basic celebration entails the following:

  • Family members often clean and decorate the graves of loved ones on Dia de los Muertos.
  • In addition to celebrations, the dead are honored on Dia de los Muertos with ofrendas—small, personal altars honoring one person.
  • Ofrendas, like an ‘altar, often have flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person being remembered, and this is where one will also add calaveras, catrinas, calacas papel picado, and other dia de los muertos arts.

At El Burrito Mercado every year we feature the many Mexican artists beautiful dia de los muertos pieces throughout our store, we hand select all the items in our visits to Mexico. We have everything you need to celebrated dia de los muertos, we are your one stop shop Dia de los Muertos!

We also build an ofrenda, this year we chose to remember Robin Williams

We added pan de muerto, sugar skulls, candles, marigolds, and other decorative items.
Robin Williams Ofrenda

Decorative Catrinas in all sizes

Artistic Skulls
Artistic skulls in various sizes & colors.

Fun, large size catrina
Fun, large size catrina
These are the most important and traditional components for building your own ofrenda:


What & why the Sugar Skulls?
Sugar skulls are exactly that- skull-shaped sugar. Traditional sugar skulls are made from a granulated white sugar mixture that is pressed into special skull molds. The sugar mixture is allowed to dry and then the sugar skull is decorated with icing, feathers, colored foil and more. While the ingredients of sugar skulls are edible (with the exception of the non-edible decorations you may add) the skulls are generally used for decorative purposes. However some small sugar skulls that are made with basic icing are intended to be consumed. On November 1 (All Souls Day) small sugar skulls are placed for children that have passed, and replaced with larger, more decorative skulls on November 2 to represent adults.  At El Burrito Mercado we sell premade & decorated sugar skulls.  Here is a recipe for making your own sugar skulls. 

Pre-made Sugar Skulls

Cute, mini sugar skulls
Cute, mini sugar skulls

This sweet bread is eaten by the families of the deceased during Dia de los Muertos, and placed on the altar. The Pan de Muerto is a made into a round shape and and extra dough is twisted and designed into decorations resembling bones which is place on top of the bread in a criss cross shape. The circular shape symbolizes the circle of life, and the bones decoration represents the dead (bones of the dead). The bread is baked, glazed and decorated with colored sugar or sesame. Make your own Pan de Muerto recipe here or buy it already prepared at El Burrito Mercado, or you can call and order your own customized pan de muerto in the shape of a person and we can write the name of the deceased on it for your ofrenda.

Pan de MuertoPan-de-muertos-01

Pan de Muerto, bakery
Pan de Muerto, bakery

Cempasúchil, The Marigold and Day of the Dead

The ancient celebrations honored Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the dead and death. The Aztecs believed that the smell could wake the souls of the dead to bring them back for the festival. Read more:

As well as water (to quench their thirst after the long journey), candles (to light their way), and papel picado (to represent wind).


To celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Minnesota, consider attending our dinner on November 2 and also these other activities throughout the Twin Cities:

Day of the Dead Midtown Global Market,

Day of the Dead MN History Museum

El Burrito Mercado Dia de los Muertos dinner


Keeping our Mercado Experience Authentic with a “Feel” to it, from Chicago with Love, Passion, & Inspiration

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This weekend getaway was an injection of creativity, admiration, and if possible, an increased passion for continual strive towards offering la Experiencia Mexicana at El Burrito Mercado.   The hubby and I went to Chicago this past Valentines weekend, it was a great, I think it’s simply getting away from responsibilities of the house, kids, and business’ that allow us to relax and enjoy each other making anywhere we go ‘romantic’.  Romantic getaways don’t have to be to the ocean, though if we could have we would have.

In addition to our ‘romantic’ adventures, we mixed pleasure with business.  We visited several Mexican markets, restaurants, and panaderias (bakeries).  As we drove in from the airport I became very nostalgic remembering the trips to Chicago with my dad in the little van when we use to pick up our merchandise from the vendors and brought it back to stock our shelves in our little 800sq ft store (back in the 80’s).

Tomas from Chicago
Tomas from Chicago

(Before our trips in a van to Chicago, my father used to go in a little station wagon to bring tortillas and other items.)  I had forgotten that Chicago was one of my earliest Mexican ‘cultural’ memories aside from our family Mexico trips.  I loved this panaderia- they didn’t have anywhere to sit and enjoy our pan dulce so we sat in our car rental and sipped on coffee and made a couple trips back in for refills!


Our first visit last week was to El Milagro tortilleria and their taqueria, the aroma of the tortilleria imitates 100% the tortillerias of the pueblos (towns) in Mexico! Awww, nostalgia.  El Milagro is one of the most established tortillerias in Chicago, I have had the privilege of previously meeting and doing business with one of the owners, Jessi. Ironically, after meeting with his production Manager and as we head out of their taqueria, we had a pleasant encounter with Jess, I’m always taken by his noble personality.  El Milagro has now grown into several other states in the country, so proud of the Lopez family and their successful business growth, so encouraging!.

After our visit to El Milagro, we stopped at several markets and panaderias in the ‘barrio’.  I like to go back once in a while to see what’s new and what’s the same in the Mexican mercados.  For the most part, it was ‘same ol’ same ol’,  based on my brief observations, as far as Mexican grocery, produce, and meats, considering our volume and demographic comparison in Hispanic population to the Chicago market, El Burrito Mercado is equal in variety.   Regarding quality and merchandising, in my opinion, we surpass in this area, our approach to creating a unique ambiance with our tasteful decor of imported artesania from Mexico were most notable to my visits,  I missed this aspect in the stores I visited.

Our exclusive approach to our market and restaurant seems to appeal to the diverse Latino consumer (by varying levels of generation and assimilation) as well as the non-Latino consumer. I attribute this appeal to the ever sought ‘experiences and interactions’ that consumers enjoy.

“They are looking for products that are not necessarily big brands anymore,” says Michael Bellas, chairman of the Beverage Marketing Corporation. “They like brands that have character. They are looking for authenticity and purity, but they are also looking for new experiences.”

Some of the experiences are just that, keeping it “same ol’, same ol'” (traditional, authentic flavors) and at the same time keeping it fresh & updated with a ‘feel’.

We also called on a few restaurants, but the most anticipated visit was to La Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless, I finally got to visit his famous restaurant!   We could only get in for a lunch reservation, I was curious to see his setup of all three restaurants in one (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco), very quaint and smaller than I expected, I liked that and enjoyed the ambiance.  Presentation of the platillos were beautiful, staff extremely friendly, and the dishes were delightful.  Loved the Mashed Michoacan avocados, roasted poblanos & garlic, tomatillo, pepitas, grilled onion, aneja cheese and the ceviche tacos.


We also visited several other restaurants like Nacional 27 and Mi Tierra, but my favorite of all, what seems like a Chicago hidden gem, Estrella Negra! I love restaurants/markets with a unique feeling and decor! Tiny hole in the wall decked from the decor of calaveras and dia de los muerto decor and to the exquisite menu with Loteria(Mexican bingo) names like La Dama, El Catrin,etc, I loved it!! (I could tell the tortillas were from El Milagro and I loved that too!)  Our favorite: their Pozole Borracho (Drunk Pozole) Pozole is a chicken and/or pork, hominy soup in a flavorful broth with blended guajillo peppers, spicy soups like Menudo & Pozole are known as hangover cures- hence the name Pozole Borracho!  And our other favorite, the chorizo, corn, & jalapeno empanadas garnished with pico de gallo and sour cream! Image


A must visit restaurant in Chicago, plus they offered something I noticed a lot in Chicago restaurants- BYOB! Yes, BYOB and they only charge the a corkage fee!

Every winter/new year I review our menus at El Burrito Mercado and tweak a bit, I’ve been working on them for a couple months and kinda got stuck, this visit to Chicago was inspiring and influential I”m certain.

What do you look for in a restaurant or ethnic market? Do you hope to have an experience or are you typically seeking a specific ingredient? What has been some of your most memorable restaurant and market experiences?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Everything from the nostalgia, aromas, mercado visits, and delicious unique Mexican eats, thank you Chicago, I missed you, we had an incredible weekend! The hubby and I had a blast shopping, eating, sleeping, dancing, and singing… did I mention my husband sings(enjoy these videos)? Looking for a great mariachi experience in Chicago visit Mi Tierra restaurant.