Saturday, November 1, 2008
El dia de los Muertos!
Writer Octavio Paz observed that the Mexican does not fear death; rather, he "chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite plaything and his most lasting love".
Today, November 1, marks the Mexican holiday known as el dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead, when families gather to celebrate the lives of deceased ancestors. Customs vary, but common to all are riotously colorful decorations, special feasts and treats including sugared delicacies and topshelf tequila, lively reunions at family burial plots, offerings to the departed on commemorative altars, and religious rites that often culminate in the ear-splitting pop of fireworks. And of course, there is always music.
It may seem rather macabre to those of us outside that culture, but I tend to think that the Mexican people have quite a healthy relationship with death. It is, undeniably, a most organic event that is our shared destiny; however, they aren't frightened or repelled by its reality. It isn't something from which they attempt to disassociate -- it's not an unspeakably frightening mystery to be acknoweldged only in whispers. Death is simply part and parcel of the natural flowing and ebbing of human existence. They choose to celebrate it for what it is -- yes, even to embrace it.
For the past few years, Rocky and I have been traveling to Mexico a couple of times annually, and from our very first trip, it claimed us. Certainly, the country continues to suffer more than its fair share of difficulties, but it's also filled with unparalleled beauty in its coastal and mountainous regions, and somehow there always prevails an indomitable spirit of happiness and hopefulness among the people. Just being in Mexico lifts my spirit.
One cannot fail to notice the riot of color in Mexico that must surely flow directly from the joyful hearts of her people. They are imbued with inherently artistic souls, and everywhere are expressions of love and loss, life and death -- all presented in a rainbow-hued array of the most vivid eye candy imaginable. I am overwhelmingly inspired by the colors in Mexico each time I visit.
And here are a few "around-the-house" snaps of items we've brought home to remind us of beautiful, happy Mexico:
Today, in honor of el dia de los Muertos, you don't have to fully embrace the Mexican traditions, but why not take some time to remember your own departed ancestors, and give thanks for the lives of those gone before?
What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. ~George Eliot