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How To Make An Altar For Día De Los Muertos #GMCDIY

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How to Make a Dia de Los Muertos Altar

When my boys were in elementary school, I visited their classrooms every year and talked about Día de Los Muertos to celebrate our Mexican culture. The class would decorate sugar skulls, make papel picado banners and paper flowers and I would talk about why many Latinos celebrate their deceased loved ones in this way. We would make an altar and arrange the skulls and flowers around it. But this year, both of my boys are in middle school and they don’t want me hanging around and talking to their classmates. So when GMC approached me about working with a DIY expert to make a fall craft, I decided to continue the tradition at home and make an altar for Día de Los Muertos.

I was teamed with the fabulous and creative Dinah Wulf of the blog DIY InspiredOur challenge was to complete our project using mostly repurposed items. We were both loaned GMC vehicles to drive for the weekend and use to pick up anything that we bought. Our goal was to find a small table to use as an altar and items to use for offerings.

But first, a little bit about Día de los Muertos: It has become very popular in recent years, but it’s very misunderstood. The holiday begins on Nov. 1 and ends on Nov. 2nd and even though it is right after Halloween, it doesn’t have anything to do with Halloween. Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America as a way to honor loved ones who have passed. It is believed that they are allowed to join the living on those days. Families make altars and place items that represent their loved ones favorite things. Traditionally, we would make the altar a couple of days before the holiday, but I don’t have access to a DIY expert everyday so I made it a few weeks early.

Our first stop for supplies was the UCLA Thrift Shop. We picked up these wine glasses for our offering (because my deceased relatives liked their wine) plus a vase for flowers.

Next, we hit the Goodwill Store in West LA. They had the perfect little desk (that I’m sure I can use for something until next year), plus a candlestick, earrings, a lace runner and picture frames – all for about $75. We picked up a few things from Michaels and headed to my house to put everything together.

Yvonne Condes and Dinah Wulf find the perfect table to use as an altar for dia de los muertos.

The table fit perfectly in the bed of the GMC Sierra Denali I was driving.
Hauling furniture in the GMC Sierra Denali

When Dinah and I had first talked about finding a table, we thought we’d need to sand it or paint it, but we were lucky to find a sweet, distressed looking desk. Dinah had the idea of taking off the end of the knobs and using earrings to make knob covers.

Dinah Wulf making new drawer knobs

We got to work making paper flowers. Or Dinah got to work while I gave her a lot of encouragement. Here’s a short video of Dinah explaining how to make the flowers.

A post shared by Sarah & Yvonne (@momsla) on

The flowers were simple and beautiful!

Paper flowers for Día de los Muertos

We also repurposed old picture frames by spray painting them yellow and blue.

Spray painted picture frames

After we finished the flowers we used painter’s tape to attach them to the arch on the wall. Then we placed our offerings, candles and pictures frames on the table. It was lovely and came out better than I could have hoped. Dinah had a lot of great ideas that I would not have thought of on my own. Definitely check out her blog, DIY Inspired, for ideas on everything from furniture makeovers to DIY halloween costumes.

Yvonne Condes and Dinah Wulf with their DIY Día de los Muertos altar

As far as the GMC Sierra Denali, it was comfortable, safe and fun to drive. My boys loved it and asked if they could ride in the back of the truck like I used to when I was a kid, which I said no to of course. We made a trip to Costco and fit a shopping cart full of groceries into one side of the backseat – very impressive.

GMC Sierra Denali pickup truck

If you’d like to learn how to make sugar skulls for Día de los Muertos read my post or watch the video below.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by GMC. All opinions are my own.

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