The Spiraling Costs of Mexico's Day of the Dead Altars

In 2023, the cost of setting up a traditional Day of the Dead ofrenda in Mexico is spookily soaring. Prices for essential elements, like incense and flowers, have risen dramatically, making it a pricey endeavor. But traditions prevail, as families find creative ways to honor their ancestors.

The Spiraling Costs of Mexico's Day of the Dead Altars
A colorful Day of the Dead ofrenda, a beautiful tribute to ancestors amidst rising costs in 2023.

The Day of the Dead, a vibrant and cherished Mexican tradition that has graced our lives for generations. But in 2023, something eerie is happening that might make even the dearly departed raise their eyebrows. It turns out that creating those mesmerizing Day of the Dead altars, known as “ofrendas,” is becoming a ghoulishly expensive endeavor for low-income individuals. Get ready to be spooked by the rising costs.

You're a modest earner in Mexico City, looking to honor your ancestors in style. However, as Luis Fernando González Martínez from UNAM's School of Economics tells us, the cost of setting up a traditional ofrenda in 2023 could drain you of up to 30% of a monthly salary, which translates to roughly 2,000 pesos. It's time to rethink the size of those marigold bouquets.

And speaking of size, the costs vary across the Mexican Republic. The more grandiose the installation, the deeper you'll have to dig into your pocket. Maybe it's time to rein in your inner altar-designing diva.

Between 2015 and 2022, the folks in Mexico City took their Day of the Dead game to a whole new level. In those seven short years, the investment in ofrendas skyrocketed by a spine-chilling 80%. Now, that's some serious dedication.

But what exactly is causing this monetary monster to rear its head? According to SEDESO, in 2015, people were spending around 935 pesos on average for their ofrendas. Fast-forward to 2022, and the figure had crept up to a bone-chilling 1,680 pesos. It's almost like these prices are possessed!

Inflation in the Afterlife

If you're wondering what's behind the price hikes, it's not just inflation from the great beyond. The cost of several essential ofrenda elements has been going off the rails.

For starters, the humble “sahumerio,” that incense-burning contraption, has seen an unholy 330% increase, now haunting the pockets of enthusiasts at around 120 pesos on average. Copal has also joined the ghostly ranks, rising by a spooky 141%, from 19 pesos for 100 grams in 2016 to 45 pesos in 2022.

Even good ol' table salt, the cornerstone of the ofrenda, decided to follow the trend, rising by 82%. It's now seasoned with a bit of inflation, going from 4.87 pesos per 500 grams to 8.70 pesos. Not exactly your grandmother's salt cellar anymore, is it?

As for flowers, the prices have risen at a pace that even the most fervent Day of the Dead enthusiast might find hair-raising. The cloud, or “nube,” saw an 80% increase, transforming a humble bouquet from 11 pesos to over 45 pesos. The beloved cempasúchil, the orange marigold, wasn't far behind, with a 60% price hike, climbing from 12.50 pesos to an average of 20 pesos.

Marigold bouquets at a bustling market, a key element in Mexico's enchanting Day of the Dead celebrations.
Marigold bouquets at a bustling market, a key element in Mexico's enchanting Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Bread That Rises from the Grave

Dead bread, or “pan de muerto,” hasn't been spared from the supernatural price hikes either. According to the Master in Economics, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has fueled an increase in wheat imports, causing the cost of this essential Day of the Dead element to rise. Just when you thought bread couldn't get any scarier, right?

As for cempasúchil and mandarin production, two vital elements of any proper ofrenda, the Ministry of Agriculture tells us that the area planted with cempasúchil has increased by a ghostly 35% in 2023, reaching 2,448 hectares. Maybe the spirits themselves are lending a hand in expanding the flower production.

So, what's a loving family or a devoted individual to do when the costs of Day of the Dead ofrendas keep rising like restless spirits? According to Mr. González Martínez, it all depends on how deeply rooted this tradition is in your culture and the specific region where your ofrenda will take its place. Perhaps a little creativity can help keep the spirits pleased without emptying your pockets.

But one thing's for sure: as we continue to honor our ancestors with these beautiful altars, the costs may be rising, but the love and respect for our traditions remain as strong as ever. So, this Day of the Dead, embrace the beloved customs, and keep those ofrendas shining brightly – even if it costs you an arm and a leg (or a bag of marigolds).