'Day of the Dead Devices' altar honors technology past

Who hasn't hung onto a defunct Walkman or a dead cell phone? The inanimate technology of our past joins a cultural tradition for an elaborate Día de Los Muertos altar here in CNET's office.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
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Tania Gonzalez, dressed in an iconic Day of the Dead costume, constructed an elaborate Day of the Dead altar at her CNET desk.

Leslie Katz/CNET

The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead traditionally focuses on honoring deceased loved ones through elaborate altars covered with offerings to summon the spirits of the dead. Sometimes, however, Día de Los Muertos altars pay tribute to flip phones.

A few feet away from me here at CNET's San Francisco headquarters, my colleague Tania Gonzalez is typing away at her desk behind a Day of the Dead Devices altar she created with old gadgets found around the office.

Surrounded by the sort of bright marigolds, aromatic candles, sugar skulls and colorful paper cuts that typically adorn Día de Los Muertos shrines, there's a Sony Walkman, a Sony Discman portable CD player, a Panasonic microcassette recorder, a VHS tape and a Bandai Gunfighter handheld electronic game from the '80s, among other vintage tech. And so many old cell phones -- slider phones, an old Motorola Razr and one Nokia model that's so heavy it could double as a weapon.

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

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Tania, social-media programming manager for CNET en Español, grew up in Mexico and says it's common to construct Day of the Dead altars that honor not only people, but objects and hobbies. Many contests in Mexico encourage such creativity. Tania wanted to introduce Monday's holiday to her colleagues, who have been marveling at the vibrant altar since it went up the day before Halloween.

"I wanted to share our traditions with the CNET team in a way that felt natural, and I thought that including technology was the best way to go," Tania says. "Not everyone is as used to seeing altars to our dead loved ones as we Mexicans are, so when you use an inanimate object, it's easier to start getting immersed in the tradition."

Scroll through the gallery above to see Tania's Day of the Dead tribute to technology past.