The Day of the Dead

by Laura Karp Lugo (LMU München/DFK Paris)

The Day of the Dead has a pivotal and communal importance in Mexico. It derives from a millenary and syncretic tradition which merges local and Catholic rituals. The city becomes a party where the majority of Mexicans wear masks and other costumes to celebrate and remember their dead relatives. Altars are erected everywhere in homage to departed loved ones: in houses, in squares, in the halls of public buildings, in the offices of the university. With love, every family gathers to cook dishes that their departed liked. They bring fruits, drinks,, quesadillas, chocolates, beer, candies, etc.,  which are brought together with sugar skulls, the bread of the dead, candles, and several kinds of other objects, including the flowers of the ceremony: cempasúchil (marigold) and flor de terciopelo (red velvet flower). We headed to the city’s cemetery, where each family sits to think, sing or eat around the grave of the person they’re honoring. We were stunned by the colors of the flowers and the ornaments placed on the tombs. The atmosphere was amazing: Colors, music, and joy. A completely different experience for those of us who come from countries where death is only associated with loss and pain. From there, we went to the market of Coyoacán, the old town of Frida Kahlo, now integrated into Mexico City. Once again, our eyes marveled at the colors of ornaments, fruits, and costumes. It’s nightfall, but Mexico will be up until late to pay tribute to its beloved dead.


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