Thursday, October 29, 2009
DAY OF THE DEAD
The Day of the Dead is nearly here. While Norteamericanos celebrate Halloween, in Latin America people celebrate El Dia de los Muertos on November 1st and 2nd. Sure, it's connected to Catholic holidays of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day, but the celebration actually can be traced back thousands of years--long before Europeans showed up with their strange religious notions --back to the Aztecs and a goddess named Mictecacihuatl.
The Day of the Dead was celebrated long before Cortez and the Conquistadors showed up with their guns and gods. According to Wikipedia, "The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexican (or Aztec), Maya, P'urhepecha, and Totonac. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years."
Today, there are parades and graveside vigils, altars covered with offerings of flowers and food and drink, candies and bread shaped liked skulls and skeletons. People remember the deceased, and hold memorials for departed family members and friends. It might seem gruesome and death-obsessed to dainty gringos, but no more than Memorial Day. Instead of sanitizing death, the Mexicans embrace it as part of life and might even share a shot of tequila with an old friend who passed away. Memories are kept alive. In this way, people live on.
Here's a spooky song by Los Lobos to help us get into the mood.