Monday, November 7, 2011

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not something familiar to much of the United States.  However, in states bordering Mexico (or states with large Latino populations) it is a practiced holiday - one that is planned for, anticipated, and relished.  Being in Tucson (formerly Mexico), Día de Muertos is an event to behold!
Wikipedia says: "Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in many cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality of a National Holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1–2, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years (thousands of years) and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In BrazilDia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures."

We had never been to the Day of the Dead parade, on 4th Street, in Tucson.  In all of his years here, Dean had never checked it out, and when first moving here I was at first 'put off' and frightened by the Day of the Dead artwork, sculptures, and paraphernalia found in the shops here.  My appreciation has changed, however, and now I'm drawn to those articles - we even have a Day of the Dead tin wall sculpture in our kitchen (purchased in Loreto, Baja Sur last March), and I have just been given a Day of the Dead Kitty tile by our friends Jen and Tom (from Phoenix)!  It seemed like we would miss the embodiment of this holiday if we didn't go to the parade this year.  In Tucson, this has become a largely gringo event that nearly resembles a form of Mardi Gras.  That was what it reminded me of anyway.  For some it was an excuse to get dressed up, paint their faces, and parade through the streets with like minded individuals.  For most, however, it was as it is supposed to be.  A day to remember their loved ones, a day to remember all souls who have passed.  The parade ended at a park in Tucson, befitted with an altar and a large cauldron of fire where papers with messages to our loved ones (which we were given papers to write messages along the parade route) were burned so that the messages were raised to the spirits of the ones we love, remember, and miss.  Remembering those who have passed isn't limited to people, there were people with pictures of their pets as well as a group that our friend Chuck walked with, remembering (and making people aware of) the number of gray wolves hit and killed by vehicles each year!  It was heartwarming to see people walking, holding up pictures of their grandparents, their ancestors; and gut wrenching to see pictures of children, teens, young adults - lost to accident, disease, violence.  Every soul deserves someone to remember them - we all have loved ones we remember.  This was not a sad event, but an event to remember them with the respect and love that they deserve. The tail of the parade was brought up by the University of Arizona marching band (or a portion of it, anyway) - all with their faces painted for the Day of the Dead.  If you live in the Tucson area and haven't been a part of this before, then come out and see it next year (the first Sunday of November).  Dean was a little unsure of this event before we went, but afterwards he suggested that maybe we'd like to walk in it next year!  So whether the participants are gringos, or Latinos, it doesn't matter; we are connected by the love we have for those who have passed, by Día de Muertos.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Great post! Like Dean, I have lived here for a long time and have never known what to make of this event- you have convinced me to go next year. Thanks.