Segments in this Video

Welcoming a Dead Patriarch (01:26)


People in Mexico celebrate the annual Days of the Dead as a time when the spirits of departed ancestors return to visit their families. Members of one family prepare for the first return of their deceased patriarch since his death.

Mexico's Lake Patzcuaro and the Days of the Dead (02:39)

Mexico's Tarasco people considered Lake Patzcuaro a gateway to the realm of the dead. The Purépecha people, modern descendants of the Tarasco, sell their crafts to tourists on an island in the lake.

A Mexican Family's Crafts Tradition (02:11)

Many Purépecha families survive on what they earn selling crafts to tourists during annual Days of the Dead celebrations. A young artisan shares stories about her grandfather and the craft tradition he established for his family.

Days of the Dead and Traditional Mexican Crafts (02:11)

A Purépecha family struggles to survive on what they earn selling crafts to tourists. A young woman visits a candle-maker who makes traditional candles for Days of the Dead celebrations.

Passing on Mexico's Days of the Dead Traditions (01:57)

A woman prepares food for a party she will give in honor of her deceased husband during Mexico's Days of the Dead celebrations. During preparations the woman passes down traditional stories of the underworld to her grandchildren.

Mexico's Saint Death (02:21)

Death has many faces in traditional Mexican lore; not all of them inspire fear. A woman shares stories about the good deeds of Saint Death.

Days of the Dead History (01:04)

Many Mexican customs, including the Days of the Dead, have roots in pre-Columbian cultures. The Days of the Dead have been merged with Christian customs, but retain much authenticity and are protected by UNESCO as world cultural heritage.

The Pride of Mexico's Indigenous People (01:08)

A parade takes place in a Mexican town to mark the fifth anniversary of the founding of a university there. Indigenous people raise fists to symbolize a history of resistance to Aztecs and Spaniards, and to represent their current struggle for rights.

Preparing for Mexico's Days of the Dead: A Fortune Teller's Advice (03:10)

A young woman and her grandmother employ the services of a fortune teller in preparation for Mexico's Days of the Dead celebrations. They hope for insights as how to please the girl's recently deceased grandfather.

History and Dance In Mexico's Purépecha Traditions (03:43)

Young women carry on traditions of Mexico's Purépecha people in a dance competition. They perform a dance which symbolizes struggles between Christians and Moors which Europeans brought to the Americas.

Pleasing the Deceased During the Days of the Dead (02:57)

Mexico's Purépecha people believe their deceased ancestors will be hungry when they return to the living during the Days of the Dead. Besides food, the wife and granddaughter of a recently deceased man hope to please him by retracing his memorable trip to Mexico City.

Mexico City's Slums (01:56)

Poverty surrounds Mexico City. The government pays little attention to the indigenous peoples who live in slums and on the streets outside Mexico's capital.

Days of the Dead Trip to Mexico City (02:32)

In preparation for Days of the Dead festivities to honor her grandfather, a young woman travels to Mexico City. There she visits a museum which honors the dead and is dismayed by the import of Halloween customs from the United States.

History, Culture, and Religion in Mexico City (02:10)

In pre-Spanish times, Mexico City's oldest square supported the most important temple of the Aztec gods; today indigenous people perform and sell crafts there. Millions of people visit Mexico City's Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe each year.

Mexican Sculptures and Attitudes Toward Death (03:19)

A young woman visits artisans in Mexico City whose papier-mâché skeleton sculptures inspired her grandfather. The world-renowned sculptures symbolize Mexican attitudes toward death.

A Mexican Village Prepares for Days of the Dead (02:42)

A legend among Mexico's Purépecha people says that butterflies carry the souls of the deceased back to the realm of the living during the Days of the Dead. People in a Mexican village prepare for Days of the Dead festivities.

Researchers Study Days of the Dead Customs (03:43)

Archaeology students visit the Mexican town of Patzcuaro during the Days of the Dead to study the ruins of Tarasco pyramids. An anthropologist studies various death rituals performed around Lake Patzcuaro during the Days of the Dead.

Visitors Flock to Mexico's Days of the Dead (02:17)

Over two million visitors swarm to Mexico's Lake Patzcuaro for Days of the Dead celebrations. Crowds of tourists witness traditional and symbolic ceremonies to honor the dead.

Bells Welcome Home the Dead (02:11)

Mexico's Days of the Dead ceremonies begin at sunrise on the first of November. A large archway and ringing bells welcome the dead back to one village.

Honoring the Departed During the Days of the Dead (01:35)

Family members have prepared elaborate offerings to honor their recently deceased grandfather during days of the Dead ceremonies. Such ceremonies of Mexico's Purépecha people date back to Aztec traditions.

Philosophy of Death: From the Aztecs to Modern Mexico (03:42)

The Aztecs believed life was a fleeting dream, and that people only truly awakened after death. Days of the Dead ceremonies which take place in Mexico's ceremonies reflect the Aztec philosophy of death and modern Mexican attitudes about death.

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Days of the Dead: A Living Tradition

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $149.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $224.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $149.95



With the arrival of the conquistadors, many ancient Mesoamerican rituals were absorbed into Christian holidays. This program examines a collection of sacred, social, and artistic traditions that survived European assimilation and now compose one of Mexico’s most important annual festivals. The film follows the travels and experiences of a young Purépecha artisan, her grandmother, and their family during the weeks leading up to the Days of the Dead. As these struggling craftspeople market their wares, study new techniques, and prepare for their deceased patriarch’s spiritual return, viewers will see a wide variety of folk art practices—from pottery painting to flower decoration to papier-mâché skeleton sculpture—coalesce into a momentous cultural event. (53 minutes)

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL37589

ISBN: 978-1-4213-7937-1

Copyright date: ©2005

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“This seamless, informative documentary can be viewed in its entirety or in stand-alone chapters. Any high school curriculum that explores folk art, native cultures, Mesoamerica, or multicultural holidays would be well served by this deeply humanizing production.”—School Library Journal


Recommended by Curriculum Connections.


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