Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dia de los Muertos

We had a rather cool look at some local culture last night. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated here October 31 through November 2. The deal is, the spirits of the dead come back to earth once a year to spend time with their family. Normally, November 1 is set aside for remembrance of deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels), and those who have died as adults are honored November 2. Altars are placed with pictures of the deceased and also the four elements of nature are involved; earth, wind, water, and fire. Earth is represented by food, usually something the deceased liked, wind by a moving object, like tissue paper, water by a liquid, which can be water itself, although we also saw wine, beer, and tequila. The last is fire shown with candles. Each lit candle is for an individual soul, with an extra one for a forgotten soul. It sounds a bit morbid, but it is the exact opposite, it is very celebratory. Family members also gather at the cemetery for gravesite reunions. They also take this time to clean up around the gravesites, polish the headstones, etc. Last night we went to Plaza Machado for the holiday. Families had set up altars around the Plaza and after sunset there was a small parade. The parade consisted of someone dressed as La Muerte--Death, a couple of small brass bands, dancers, and two donkeys pulling carts with free Pacifico beer that was being handed out to the couple of hundred people that follow the parade. The parade route winded around the El Centro area and ended back at the Plaza, passing many altars familes had set up. There were fireworks being set off the entire time. It was quite an experience!

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