Cempoaxochitl (pronounced sem-pa-soo-cheel) by Rosalba Jaquez celebrates Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a story about friendship and grief. The Mexican holiday, celebrated in the country (first in rural areas, then spreading to cities in the 1980s) and the diaspora, honors the dead through offerings and acknowledgment. This webcomic beautifully conveys the cherishing of our physical lives and honors the transition to the spiritual one.
Yunuen’s ability to see the souls of the departed leads to her befriending the lost and the melancholic. She encounters and befriends a man who cannot die, an ancient entity, and a skeleton that shoulders regrets. As life continues, she too begins to harbor her own grief. She learns to find joy in the challenges and sadness she experiences.
Cemopoaxochitl, or Cempasúchil, derives from the Nahuatl word zempoalxochitl. ‘Zempoal’ means twenty and ‘Xochitl’ means flower. The connotative translation depicts an abundance of flowers; thus, cemopoaxochitl means flower with many petals. These cemopoaxochitl, bright orange marigolds, bloom at the end of the rainy season. Mexicans describe the marigolds as flor de muerto (flower of the dead) and place them on gravestones and ofrendas. The Nahua believe that the marigolds will guide the dead to their living families on the Day of the Dead. The webcomic shows the origin of Día de los Muertos, proudly including Nahuatl (Aztec) lore.
Rosalba Jaquez seamlessly braids Yunuen’s narrative with the stories of the people, living and dead, she comes across. People who endure grief, loneliness, regret, and rage. Evocative scenes and character expressions grace the pages of this lovely webcomic. It’s a story about moving on, knowing when to let go, and making peace with the past.
Learn more about Rosalba Jaquez here.
Credit for the grayscale and layout assistance goes to Humberto Garrido.
Learn more about Día de los Muertos here.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Note: I’m Puerto Rican, so all information about Día de los Muertos comes from research and consulting. Any errors are my own.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.
Location: DC Metro area