El Día de los Muertos
Méxicanos have received a Wonderful, Precious gift from our Lord, the Gift of Picardía. There does not exist an exact one word translation of this gift. You see, Picardía is an attitude. It is a way of being and seeing things.
Picardía is a slyness, a craftiness, a naughtiness, a sense of humour that pokes fun at things, situations and people. Especially those that would defeat most. It is what keeps us laughing in the face of Poverty, Injustice, Corruption, and yes, Death.
I will be the first to admit that La Picardía Méxicana is slowly diminishing, especially in the larger urban areas where there is more Extranjero Influence. People are exposed to other Cultures, Customs, and Ideologies and adopt these knowingly or simply unaware and thus slowly lose what makes them Unique and Special.
This is not to say that Acculturation is a bad thing. Far from it. All you have to do is take a look at me to know that Identity is a big thing for me. I grew up lost, without a “true” identity.
I was not Mexican enough to be Mexican and I wasn’t Anglo enough to be White. I spoke Spanish fluently thus, Pocha was insulting and inappropriate for me. Chicana was too militant and ideological for my personal taste. And after years and years of vagabundear due to the lack of Identity, I appropriated the not-too-popular and sometimes offensive, Mexican-American.
This hyphenated Identity, I feel almost encapsulates me. I am Mexican and I am American. And quite proud of this fact. 😀
Acculturation is more and more the norm. It is truly a privilege to have the best of two or more worlds from which to obtain many traditions, customs, traits, etc, etc, etc…
The down side of exposure to different customs, especially when the individuals receiving the new “information” are of a Third World Country and this information received comes from a Super Power that
was is the U.S., well, the result of this is that the richness of the Non-US Individuals tend to see this Super Power Custom or Tradition as “Better,” and thereby allowing their own Riches to fall by the wayside.
This is precisely what is occurring as I said with Picardía and among many other things, El Día de los Muertos.
El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Pre-Hispanic Tradition from Mesoamerica. This basically means that this tradition has been around since way, WAAAAAAAY before the Spanish Invasion of México.
The Celebration was held during the month of the the Aztec God Miccailhuitontli. Which coincides with the end of the Gregorian month of July and beginning of August.
The Presider of the festivals dedicated to the deceased was Mictecacihuatl, the “Lady of the Dead,” present day “La Catrina.” She is the Goddess of the Underworld, the Goddess of Death. Legend has it that she died during childbirth and thus became the Lady of the Dead and custodian of the bones of the deceased. The celebration was dedicated to the Children and to the lives of our deceased family members.
Differing greatly with many beliefs about Death, especially those in Christianity, Indigenous People believed that Souls did not die. They continued living in Mictlan until the time of the Celebration of the Dead. On this day, they were able to spend time with the Loved Ones in the world of the Living.
Death, therefore, never meant sadness. Death was a time for celebration. Time to rejoice and once more spend time with loved ones. We remember and relive those memories with our deceased loved ones on these days.
November 1st we celebrate Los Santos Inocentes, the Little Ones. On this night, we believe Children’s Souls are allowed to return and on November 2nd, well, that’s the grown ups’ turn.
Now, is it a coincidence that these festivities coincide with the Catholic Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day and all Soul’s Day? Of course not 😉
As we all know, our Church, has a history of taking pagan celebrations and making them our own. As The Crescat quite effectively put it, “Papists love to party. And thus, we have many, many feasts celebrated in many, many styles. The best part, they are all ONE!! Meaning they are all Catholic. Yes, you can check the dictionary, it means universal, all-embracing.
The symbols of Día de los Muertos are the ever-present and quite awesome calacas, skulls. The calaveras de dulce. Candy skulls and/or skeletons. These will have the names of the deceased and sometimes of those that are still living as well as a joke. These then are eaten by friends and family.
You will also find Pan de Muerto, a sweet bread in different shapes and forms, braids, sculls, bunnies, circles, it will be based on our loved one’s preferences when they were still with us.
There are also “Calaveras” which are poems where La Catrina, death, comes into play with those that are living. There will be allusions to individuals’ characteristics, they may be even blatantly named, this Calavera will end with how La Catrina takes them with her. It is very common to see these types of lithographs in the major newspapers in México poking fun at political figures during these dates.
During November 1st and 2nd, families will clean and decorate their loved ones’ gravesites with coronas, crowns of flowers, roses, cempazuchitl (marigolds, a symbol of death), copal or copalli (incense). The scent will lead the Souls back.
Now, for those that cannot visit their Loved ones’ tombs, they create an Altar in their homes. These are very elaborate. One places different offerings for our Loved Ones. For the children, their favourite toys, foods, beverages. Foods and beverages for the adults as well. Once more you will have Cempazuchitl, Pan de Muerto, Papel Picado (tissue paper cut in different designs to decorate in of course the symbolic colours, black, purple and orange), Calaveras, Calacas, Tequila, Glasses of Water, Pictures of our Loved Ones, Candles…Everything and anything to make their visit a good one! Don’t worry, the scent of the bread, their favourite dishes and beverages will lead them to you.
I hope you enjoy the images and the video that gives a small look into El Día de los Muertos!
Small note here…I actually started this post back in 2010!! And sadly I am just now publishing it, talk about PROCRASTINATION!! Damn, that Flaca (Death) should be as great a Procrastinator as I!!!