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A Día de Los Muertos Celebration

A menu for the living to celebrate the Day of the Dead.


Enchiladas de camote, or sweet potato enchiladas, from "Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex."

For those of you unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead, rest assured it is not another remake of Zombie Apocalypse. In Mexico, it is an annual fall celebration of remembering, honoring and communing with loved ones who have gone before.

The holiday has its roots in a pre-Columbian summer festival that celebrated the goddess Mictecacihuatl, Queen of the Underworld. After the Spanish Conquest, the festival was moved to coincide with the Roman Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day, which fall on October 31, November 1, and November 2, respectively.

On those dates, many families in Mexico adorn their loved ones’ graves and decorate altars with ofrendas (offerings) of candles, incense, flowers (especially yellow marigolds), and sugar skulls (calaveras), as well as photos and personal items of the deceased. Their favorite food and drinks are also provided, so that returning spirits are able to experience the things they loved on earth and miss in heaven. It is a melancholy-sweet holiday, which, come to think of it, is an apt description of life itself.

So gather all your loved ones around you and celebrate the many blessings we have and have had in our lives by sharing a favorite food of people past, present and future—enchiladas—including enfrijoladas al estilo de Oaxaca (Oaxacan style enchiladas with black bean sauce and queso fresco), enchiladas callejeras (street-style enchiladas with chicken and chorizo, vegetables and ancho/guajillo sauce), and enchiladas de camote (sweet potatoes with a tangy chipotle sauce).

Add an ensalata de nopalitos (cactus salad) and some arroz amarillo (yellow rice), and you’ll have a complete meal. And how about a jalapeño margarita or three to go with it? There’s nothing like a little spirit to lift one’s spirits.

Enchilada recipes from Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn, Trinity University Press, 2015.
Enchilada recipes from “Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex” by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn. Trinity University Press, 2015.


  1. Enchiladas de Camote (Sweet Potato Enchiladas)Ceasar Zepeda/La Fonda on Main, San Antonio
  2. Enchiladas CallejerasVictor Maldonado/La Fonda on Main, San Antonio
  3. Arroz Amarillo
  4. Enfrijoladas al Estilo de OaxacaIliana de la Vega, of El Naranjo, in Austin
  5. Ensalada de Nopalitos (Grilled Cactus Paddle Salad)
  6. Jalapeño Margarita

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