NEW YORK — Angelo Cabrera drops marigold petals at the altar, part of a trail that stretches from a photo of his mother, Irma, who died in July, to the doorstep of the chapel.

"You show them the path. And you welcome them,” says Cabrera. 

What You Need To Know

  • Green-Wood Cemetery installed a Day of the Dead altar in its chapel

  • Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition celebrating deceased loved ones

  • The public is invited to light candies and place offerings at the altar

  • Day of the Dead is marked on November 1

Cabrera is marking El Dia de los Muertos, which is Spanish for the Day of the Dead. It's a celebration of deceased family members. Families prepare an offering for their loved ones for the holiday, which is celebrated on November 1 in Mexico.  Cabrera's wife, Lorena Kourousias, is honoring Victorio Hilario-Guzman, a Mexican-born delivery man in the Bronx who was riding his bike this month when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Skull candy made of sugar represents a sweet life. Adding favorite foods and drinks is also a tradition. So Irma gets a beer, too. Their photos are placed in frames. And it's off to the altar to present the offering. 

"We develop a different relationship with the dead,” says Kourousias. “It's a way to connect with our ancestors."

This celebration is taking place at Green-Wood Cemetery, which installed a Dia de los Muertos altar for the holiday. Families can write the names of their loved ones and light candles in their memory. Each flame a reminder.

"It's really a celebration,” says Kourousias. “It's the day to be with them. We don't feel sad on the Day of the Dead. I think it really gives a different meaning to the losses we have. It's like we have another time to see them. We have another time to visit us."

Gabrielle Gatto, Green-Wood's coordinator of public programming, says she's moved by the photos displayed and items left.

"You could almost sense and feel the love through a photograph, which I just find remarkable,” says Gatto. “And it's really beautiful that so many members of the community get to feel that and see that as they placed their own offerings."

In Mexican culture, families set up altars at home before November 1, and then hold graveside festivities on the actual holiday. However it's observed, the goal is to share with their dearly departed. 

"All the food that we put on the ofrenda, they're going to come and their spirit is going to eat,” says Cabrera. 

Cabrera says on this day, he feels as if his family is family back together again, at least in spirit.


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