Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar Honoring Departed Loved Ones + Video

My maternal grandmother, Jesusita inspired this blog and the Muy Bueno cookbook. She was an amazing person, a fantastic cook, and honestly a saint. She opened her heart and home to many and my memories of her will always live in my heart.

My grandma passed away in 2004, two days after her 98th birthday. I’ll never forget that phone call from my mom. I felt as-if my heart had been pulled out of my chest; I felt a part of me missing. I immediately made flight arrangements to fly to El Paso to attend her funeral. The day of the rosario (viewing) was actually beautiful and joyous. It was like a family reunion seeing so many of my cousins that I hadn’t seen in years. For a moment I forgot that my grandma had passed away and it felt like the good ol’ days. Then it was time to walk up to see my grandma in her casket. I saw her lying there so peaceful; she looked rested, and even had a little smile. And I broke down crying like I had never cried before. It was an embarrassing loud cry that I couldn’t control. I couldn’t breath and I felt as if I was going to faint. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her. I wanted her in my life forever.


For years the crying didn’t stop. Sometimes I would be in the shower and I would just start to cry. Or I’d have dreams about her and wake up crying. As the saying goes…Time heals all wounds. I still miss my grandma very much, but I know she is in a better place. Now when I think of her I try not to cry, but instead I smile and remember all the wonderful memories I have of her.


Recently my paternal grandmother, Anita passed away. My aunt Gracie called me while I was on a work assignment in New York and when I saw her phone number appear on my phone I knew. I was scared to answer, and sure enough she told me the news and I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe — I was heartbroken. My sister was with me when I heard the news and was trying to comfort me, but all I could do was cry. I wanted to make arrangements to fly home so badly, but I couldn’t. I had big commitments in New York and I just couldn’t leave. I felt horrible that I couldn’t be there, and till this day it hurts me that I wasn’t able to say goodbye.


I was feeling sad and guilty for days and reached out to my dad. I hadn’t spoken to my father in years. I always wished that we had a closer bond, but unfortunately after my parents divorced, so did we. Now my dad and I are talking again and I’m so happy about that.


My grandmother’s life on earth will never be forgotten. Their photos have a special place of honor in my home and when I see their photos I can’t help but smile and think of all the wonderful memories.

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is neither scary nor somber; it is joyous. This year my family and I will be honoring both my loving grandma’s with an altar full of their favorite foods and drinks, their photos, as well as candles and flowers.


Please watch this video my daughter and I made honoring Jesusita and Anita. I hope that it inspires you to make an altar in your home and honor your deceased loved ones.


The Aztecs believed death is not the end, but rather the beginning, and that before death everything is a dream.

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Written by Yvette / Photos by Yvette / MUA Heathyrre Kautz Couture / Video by Pure Cinematography / Champurrado recipe

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  1. What a beautiful, beautiful post, Yvette. It still amazes me how many people I meet who think of Dia de los Muertos as a macabre, dark holiday when it is really a celebration of life. It is so hard to lose loved ones, but what struck me was that, in your time of healing, you gained a new beautiful relationship with your father. That is surely a blessing that your grandmother would have wished for! Blessings to you and your family, my friend! You will be in my thoughts this dia…

  2. I was so moved by this post and the video. I had some tears in my eyes and it of course made me think of my paternal grandparents that have passed. I’m inspired even more to make an altar this year for them as I have never done one.
    Not only was your video so moving to me but my kids enjoyed it as well. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

  3. Maya and Yvette, that was very sweet and touching. Made me miss grandma all over again. Thanks for honoring our grandma and Anita….love you mucho.

  4. Wonderful tribute to Jesusita and Anita!
    I am hoping to make a small ofrenda this year with my daughter! Thank you so much for sharing yours! It is a wonderful way to remember our loved ones we have lost.

  5. I really enjoyed your post. Thank you.

  6. Beautifully done, Yvette.

  7. What a beautiful post Yvette, it made me cry too. As only one year has passed since my grandma (my mother in so many ways) died. You described the way you felt when your maternal grandmother died, and I understand perfectly because it is the way I felt. It is the way I feel. I think about her at random times, sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile. Thanks for sharing this story and the meaning of Día de los Muertos, as we don’t celebrate it in the Dominican Republic and I did not understand it fully before.

  8. Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory and video!

  9. What a beautiful post and video. The love for your grandmother shines through.

    Thanks for also explaining the cultural significance and symbolism behind Día de los Muertos.

  10. I loved that so much. My grandma Socorro Padilla passed away sept 2011, at the age of 96, it almost sounds like we had the same gma. Everything u did reminded me of her.I can still the sound of her rolling pin at 5am making homemade tortillas for me and all my cousins. Thank u for sharing, it warmed my heart.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful video, Yvette. 🙂

  12. I can totally relate to losing grandmothers. I lost my paternal grandmother when I was 10. Although I was young, I also cried uncontrollably at her rosary. We weren’t very close, but when she was gone, so were my summers with her. When my maternal grandmother passed, I experienced the crying you describe. I miss her and love her everyday. My son never met her, but he knows her, and I truly believe she visited him often when he was a child. I still believe she visits me often, with tricks and things. She also was from El Paso. She only lived there 19 or 20 short years, but she always considered herself a Texan.

    Thank you for your recipes and blog!

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