The vivid orange and yellow cempasúchiles, known as marigolds in English, frequently adorn Día de los Muertos ofrendas.
Native to Mexico, the flowers bloom at this time of year just in time for the holiday.
But in Chicago, fresh cempasúchiles can be tough to find for Día de los Muertos. Tito’s Flowers and Gifts owner Blanca Tito, who is of Ecuadorian descent, said she only started selling the fragrant flowers in her Albany Park shop when a Mexican customer inquired about them three years ago.
“When I opened the business, I didn’t know about this kind of flower,” Tito said. “I didn’t know how it was used. They said, this is a Mexican tradition, in Mexico we do the altar and cempasúchiles, we use to call to people who have died.”
The shop has its own ofrenda in the window with images of late pop star Selena Quintanilla and characters from the Pixar movie “Coco.” Tito says she remembers celebrating Día de los Muertos as a child in Ecuador.
“Mexican people [are] everywhere so they take the tradition where they go. So for example in my country we just go to the cemetery all night, we pray and we drink, we take them food,” Tito said. “You feel in your heart they are here, they are here every year.”
Tito says she plans to sell the cempasúchiles at her Albany Park shop through the end of the holiday on Nov. 2.