During my earlier stays in Mexico, I had experienced Dia de los Muertos only briefly.  My students made an altar for me at my first school in 1988, complete with a sugar skull labeled Bill.  My landlady also set up an altar in my apartment and colorful sand paintings with golden flowers were created in front of the cathedral.  Nothing could have prepared me for the elaborate celebrations which I have shared since then.  I have said that one day of this celebration is equal to six months of living in the States.  The abundance of flowers, the enthusiasm and love which the people put into remembering their loved ones, and the creativity is something for which I was unprepared.  Dia de los Muertos is hands up my favorite holiday.
 

Dia de los Muertos


Every business marks this holiday with an altar.  Altars have flowers, fruits, food, photos of departed loved ones, and things that they enjoyed in life.

At right, marigolds adorn
the entrance to a shop in Oaxaca.


Another altar at a restaurant.

Sand
paintings are also found in businesses as well as in cemeteries

Small clay statues of dressed skeletons are found everywhere.  Mexicans, in my viewpoint, accept death much better than their northern neighbors.  Many gringos get upset when they see these statues.

At right, paper mache statues
of skeletons dancing at a downtown store


This is my home altar with photos of my loved ones

This was my altar in a previous year

Entrance to the Pantheon cemetery

On the left is the Mendoza family who invited us to celebrate Day of the Dead with them a few years ago.  They prepared a lovely meal with mole chicken, hot chocolate, and fruit.  On the altar behind them were stacked pan de muerto, large round bread with small paraffin spirit faces.  This family had an abundance of breads on the altar that night. 

After eating, we were chatting when one of the breads flew across the room.  It seemed impossible it could have done so without others falling down.  Our host simply said, "They are here" meaning the spirits had come home.  The village kept the church bells ringing all night so the spirits could find their way.  After this "spiritual" occurrence, my guests (from Texas and Canada) decided to try the mezcal, a locally-brewed drink which is more potent than tequilla. 


Candles on graves ablaze at a cemetery

Graves are cleaned, adorned with flowers, and candle lit throughout the night


What a wonderful way to remember


Sand painting at the cemetery


This skeleton is Catrina, the most popular one


Religious paintings are common too


The cross at Pantheon Cemetery


A band was playing and we were invited to dance and share snacks and drinks.  Many families hire mariachis and other musicians to play the favorite music of the departed.  They spend the night in the cemetery and remember their loved ones with stories and celebration of their lifes


Sad to report, Halloween has come to Mexico and trick or treat along with it.  I personally find it sad that other cultures are so quick to adopt America culture, often at the cost of their own culture. 


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