Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a beautiful Mexican holiday that has become one of my favorite celebrations ever since I was first introduced to it years ago. Growing up, I never knew about this exuberant fiesta. I learned about it while studying Frida Kahlo and have continued to celebrate its meaning ever since.
Mystery and memory mingle as death is celebrated as part of life and the continuum of time. Altars are created to honor loved ones who have passed away. These offerings can be humorous and nostalgic - and are said to guide the souls back to earth for a reunion.
One of my favorite books, which I highly recommend, is Frida’s Fiestas:Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle. One section of this fascinating book tells personal details of how Frida celebrated Día de los Muertos and also includes her favorite recipes such as 'dead man's bread,' 'red tamales' and 'strawberry atole.'
Having great respect and love for Día de los Muertos, I found it eerie to learn that Frida Kahlo was hired to paint a beautiful portrait of the late actress Dorothy Donovan Hale on November 1, 1938. This coincided with the opening date of Frida’s first exhibition in the United States at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. Dorothy died in New York City at the age of 33 on October 21, 1938. I suspect Frida was thinking intensely of Dorothy, having been hired to paint her, on Day of the Dead, in 1938. Perhaps this beloved holiday influenced her to paint something different than the beautiful portrait she was hired to do? Today, "El Suicidio deDorothy Hale," is considered one of Frida’s most mysterious and haunting works of art.