Dia de Los Muertos

In my blog post; “The Flavor of Mexican Catholicism: An Ongoing Rebellion” I shared with you my notion that Mexican Catholicism is its own flavor tacitly allowed by the Catholic Church in order to keep Mexico a member of the faith. As I explained in my blog, I believe the Mexican identity represents a duality in how we present ourselves outwardly in contrast to who we are inwardly. This is a result of the constant battle between our indigenous heritage and that of the identity forced upon us by the Spanish and the subsequent invaders.

In my article I explained to you the notion of “smoke and mirrors” as they relate to the Mexican experience. In that article I mentioned superficially the Dia de los Muertos. As today is the first day of a two day observation of the Dia de los Muertos I figured I’d share a little more about the holiday with you. Technically it is a three-day observation starting on October 31 however it is generally understood to be November 1st and 2nd.

You might remember in the article I reference above that I explained that to Mexicans death is a central and constant companion to us. As strange as it might seem we embrace death as a continuation of life. That is why many find it strange that Mexicans joke about death. We embrace death because historically death has always been close at hand to almost every Mexican generation.

However, because of our duality; portraying one thing while believing another we ourselves are confused by our own actions. We portray adherence to the Catholic Faith yet we subscribe to Cunranderismo and appropriately celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that has spread into parts of the United States and Latin America. Obviously the holiday focuses on the dead however it is a “fun” day of festivities as demonstrated by the colorful candy Calaveras, or skulls. It is also a national holiday.

Dia de los Muertos is a two day holiday divided into Dia de Muertos Chiquitos; November 1st as the day to celebrate the children who have died and November 2nd the day to celebrate the adults that have also died. Although many reference All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day; the truth is that the holiday is actually a continuation of a centuries old celebration practiced by Mexicans before the Spanish Conquest.

This is all part of our rebellion against the imposition of the Catholic Faith upon Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadores. And although the skull is central to the celebration, may children eat sugar calaveras, the skull and skeletons playfully represent the dead as being part of the living.

Traditionally, besides the sugary skulls kids love, the celebration includes a pan de muerto, an alter dedicated to the departed and a day spent at the cemetery commiserating with loved ones that have died by having a picnic enjoying the dead’s favorite foods while remembering them. It is also a time to clean and decorate the graves of the departed loved ones.

As you recover this morning from the ghouls, the witches and all sorts of costumed characters not to mention the sugar overload remember that in Mexico death is our constant companion and rather than being something to fear it is just a continuation of life. And also remember that although we don’t celebrate with masks, Mexicans by our own duality always wear a mask that hides from the public what we really are, even from ourselves.