Sunday, November 3, 2013
Day of the Dead
Sometimes I think that globalization is watering down the traditions and customs of countries but there is a Mexican one that I've adopted and whether I'm living in Mexico or Texas, it is one that I plan to keep. It is Day of the Dead.
These days in Mexico it is getting commercialized with a sort of Halloween adaptation on October 31, with Calaca Festivals and Catrina parades on November 1 and 2. What kid wouldn't want to dress up and collect candy on Halloween. I understand the business community promoting events that will bring people into town to eat in restaurants and stay in hotels. The Day of the Dead I'm talking about is what happens in homes and with families.
About dark on November 1, I was walking into town. A door was partially open and I could see a small altar with candles, food and marigolds and even marigold petals sprinkled across the floor toward the door. Around the walls sat family members having a drink and talking. No doubt they were remembering loved ones.
On November 2, I went with some friends out in the campo, way out in the campo to a cemetery. We had to park on the road and walked about 1/2 mile on a rutted road with big potholes filled with the rain from the night before. There was one truck stuck in the mud and evidence that a few others had gunned the motor to escape other potholes. As we neared the cemetery vendors had set up stands to sell flowers, candles and food. Rancho dogs scooted in between the potholes and people to scrounge for tidbits accidentally dropped.
I took a deep breath when we walked through the gate of the cemetery. It was packed with people. It was so beautiful. Many families had turned the dirt on the grave so that it looked like it was a new grave. And flowers, not just marigolds but flowers of every kind and color from cosmos picked in the campo to stems of red gladiolas bought at a shop. Flowers in empty jalapeno cans and plastic bottles, huge round wreaths and even flowers stuck in the freshly turned earth.
Some family groups were visiting but most were gradually moving toward the far end of the cemetery where that was a three sided shed. They were waiting for the priest to arrive and for the Mass to begin.
Last year I had a large altar for Ned. This year was a little smaller. I decorated it with flowers, candles and some of my favorite pictures of him. Of course, I had red wine, his favorite tequila and Presidente Brandy. AND the biggest Snickers I could find. Many Mexicans believe that the spirit of the person comes back to visit during Day of the Dead. I think I always feel him by and a part of me but Day of the Dead is such a wonderful way to remember him and celebrate his life.
The picture? I made it in the campo cemetery. At one grave site there were two kind of raggedy dressed men. They seemed to be alone and not a part of any family group. One had white hair and he was stooped. He was turning the earth of the grave. The other, younger, the man you see above. He was putting flowers on the grave. Was this the grave of the wife and mother? I was touched. And it is another one of those times when, if I were a writer, there is a story to be written.