A SKELETON WALKS INTO A BAR “GIMME A SHOT…AND A MOP!”
Dia De Los Muertos pokes a wet-willy in deaths’ ear, explodes with an appreciation for the sweetness of life while bowing down with the utmost respect to the occasion. Held within range of Halloween, and featuring macabre imagery and costumes, it’s often referred to as “Mexican Halloween”.
In reality, however, the difference is similar to the cool, well-dressed, proverbial ‘aunt’ that comes to family occasions. While there’s no relation to this fun ‘aunt’, everyone wishes there was – because they’re so damn cool. This is Day of the Dead compared to Halloween, and there’s an awful lot more to it than skeletons and mops.
Despite the Aztecs violent badass reputation, the imagery/skeletons came much, much later. These were early celebrations structured around the farming season. Much as Halloween derives from pagan celebrations of the change of seasons. It was the Spanish Conquistadors, bringing Catholic influence to Latin America, that combined the Aztec shindig with the Catholic traditions of All Saints’ (Nov 1st) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2nd).
I know…Halloween + Day of the Dead = same two days on the calendar year. But, the focus is different. Nov 1st celebrates children, While the 2nd does the same for adults.
What does this mean? Since the central belief is that the spirits of loved ones can join the living on those days and commune with them, all celebration is geared towards that. Toys and calaveras (sugar skulls) are left for children, and food, favorite possessions, and alcohol for adults. Elaborate homemade altars (called ofrendas) offer up a smorgasbord for goodies for those being celebrated!
So what kind of celebrations? Heart-stirring, miraculous and marvelous! Live music fills streets, dancing and parades from residences to graveyards pop up, and ofrendas are staged in doorways that boggle the mind.
And La Catrina? Where does her skinny behind come into all this? Oddly enough, this iconic symbol was born from a political cartoon: an intent by famous Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, to skewer Mexican natives he felt were adopting European snobbery and customs at the expense of their own culture.
Diego Rivera (fabulous Frieda’s other half) forever immortalized La Catrina as a symbol, with his 1948 work – Sueño de una tarde dominic al en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda). To this day, she, and her attendant male Catrin, represent the holiday.
*Mexico City has never had a parade to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, but held their first in 2016, inspired by, of all things, the recent James Bond movie Spectre. Life really is stranger than fiction!
“Before an excursion begins,” Sharon says, “we jump on the beds, taste the food, drink the drinks. We’re tenacious, and our taste for small group exploration is often all-consuming. Our adventure travels begin by learning the hard way, gives you an adventure the easy way — comfortable and safe with plenty of esprit de corps.”
In answer to Prufrock’s question in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock… Do it! Go for it! Dare to Eat the Peach!