Here in the Western U.S., the annual obsession with jack-o-lanterns, spooky themes, and costumes is pre-dated by centuries of celebration around the Ancestors.  It’s called “Día de Los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), and on Sunday, November 1, several shows on KUVO will mark the occasion with unforgettable music.  First, the backstory.

In Aztec mythology, when a person dies they must pass through the nine levels of the underworld to reach their final resting place: Mictlan. The journey, added by the lovable hairless Xolotl, is harrowing and lasts four years, but once they arrive at their final resting place they are able to make the yearly journey to the realm of the living. Before the arrival of the Spanish this ritual was celebrated sometime in August but with the introduction of Catholicism it was moved to November to align with similar religious festivities elsewhere in Christendom.

On the 1st and 2nd of November as the border between the living world and the Land of the Dead dissolves, families gather at grave sites and altars to spend time with those they’ve missed. November 1, Día de los Inocentes, is when the souls of children return and November 2, is All Souls Day, when we can commune with the souls of adults. Because death is just another life, Day of the Dead, in Mexico and Mexican America at least, is a time of joy and celebration. Families create altars filled with flowers, pan de muerto, sugar skulls, favorite foods and drinks and other beloved material possessions. As the mythology goes, while the dead are able to return, they need to be led home. The smell of Cempazuchi (marigolds) helps guide them to your door, on the wings of the Monarch butterfly.

This year, on Sunday. the hosts of Canción Mexicana, La Raza Rocks, Salsa Con Jazz and Super Sonido all hope to guide our loved ones back through song.

Starting at 9 am, with “Canción Mexicana,” Debra Gallegos and Yolanda Ortega will build a very special Ofrenda (Altar) through the music our ancestors wrote, sang and loved. Music from Mexico’s Epoca Dorada (the Golden Age of Mexican music), the tunes our parents and grandparents loved, will have center stage throughout the first hour. They’ll continue the musical tributes from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. remembering the artists that gave us so many memories, like Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Selena, Al Hurricane, Emilio Navaira, and Ernestine Romero to name a few.

At 1 pm, Pocho Joe of “La Raza Rocks” will be featuring songs like Cumbia De Los Muertos from Ozomatli; La Llorona from Concrete Blond Y Los Illegals; and perhaps a surprise from the “Coco Soundtrack”!

At 2 pm, Carlos Lando will join “Salsa Con Jazz” host Janine Santana for two hours of favorite musical remembrances from their personal collections, including Chano Pozo, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barreto, and the recently departed Richie Cole and Ray Mantilla.

At 4 pm, my program “Super Sonido” will close out the celebration with an hour of songs that connect these ancient traditions to today. Songs from Jenny and the Mexicats and Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas will celebrate the dead. Rita Indiana, Plu Con Pla, and even our own Yolanda Ortega will allow space for grief. Jay and the Americans and Santana will get personal and honor family members.

Please join KUVO’s Sunday hosts on November 1, starting at 9 am as we cry, laugh, sing and remember those we love.

Image credit: Paul Hiffmeyer

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