Friday, November 1, 2013

Observing the Day of the Dead (Again)

In honor of the Day of the Dead, we're reproducing the following post 
that was originally published in 2009 by guest writer

In Mexico and in Mexican expat communities, November 1st and 2nd mark "Día de Muertos," or Day of the Dead. The two days are a chance for families to remember their lost ones, combining ancient Aztec, Mayan, Náhuatl, Purépecha and Totonocao traditions with Spanish Christianity.

In the days prior, many Mexicans put up an altar in their house. Usually adorned with flowers (cempasúchil, or marigolds), a candle for and photo of each loved one, sugar or chocolate skulls, fruits, the sugary "bread of the dead" (pan de muerto), pumpkins, candied squash, religious symbols and paper decorations, the altar is said to be an offering for the departed.

The city held a mega-offering in its humongous Zócalo, or main plaza, for 10 consecutive years, but this week's offering was cancelled as the country is hit by an economic crisis. However, nearly all of the capital's 16 boroughs feature their own altar, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, is dedicating a mega-offering to poet Edgar Allen Poe.

Día de Muertos has evolved over the years. When celebrated during pre-Hispanic times, human skulls were used. Now, sugar and chocolate skulls, or calaveras, have come to symbolize the celebrations, and Aguascalientes-native José Guadalupe Posada mocked the Mexican upper-class society with his etchings of the famous La Catrina in the early 1900s. The portraits, often featuring dancing and partying skeletons, along with satirical poems and prose mocking the living and describing personality traits, have been taken in as part of the celebrations over the years.

To the dismay of traditionalists, inevitable culture clashes have made the Mexican custom increasingly popular in the United States, while Halloween's presence is growing in Mexico. Costume parties, horror-movie marathons on cable and children dressed as Chucky trick-or-treating are becoming more and more common.

Día de Muertos, a rich, colorful, spiritual, religious, complex, humorous, heart-filled, sad, bittersweet, evolving and very Mexican tradition, is a unique blend of cultures, with a growing presence wherever the "muerte es parte de la vida" (death is a part of life) attitude is present.

[Ed. - On the 100th anniversary of his death, Posada's artwork is being celebrated with several large "Skeleton Lady" statues at Mexico City's Zócalo plaza.]
Video Source - YouTube via Lonely Planet

Online Sources - The Huffington Post; Wikipedia; El Universal; Periodico Zocalo; The Latin Americanist 

1 comment:

Michael Johnson said...

muy amale, gracias nice post,