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


  1. it's really ironical... i've seen photos of india taken by one of my long time friend, they are really colorful as well. their craft, sarees, market place... everything is technicolor, similar to the ones you took (btw... they are really beautiful :) ) i have this thought that perhaps people who have had "more than their fair share of difficulties" would yearn to live in colors. perhaps you are right in saying that there is joy and hopefulness in their hearts... or perhaps they already have so much bleakness in their lives, why would they wanna live among blacks, whites and grays anymore... i definitely wouldn't want to ...

  2. Hi, Luthien! I think you make an excellent point, and I agree wholeheartedly. You know what else is interesting -- I've heard it said that Mexicans (and others from "third-world" countries) want what WE have here in the states. I don't believe that's true. They cling passionately to their own culture and wouldn't trade lives with us for anything. (What they WANT has more to do with equality and fair representation, and always, always the ability to simply feed their families.) I think that many that we tend to view as having so much less than us, actually possess something that we are either in the process of losing, or may have already done so here in this country. They continue to hope for the future, but also view each day as something beautiful and special that is worthy of celebrating.

    I wish you a beautiful weekend, my friend!

  3. What a rich and beautiful post. Nicely done. :)

    (and I LOVE those steps!)

  4. Jen,

    I love how you educate us on such beautiful topics.

    Thank you for that.


  5. Jen,

    I just wanted to thank you for your sweet anniversary wishes.

    Love Melissa

  6. excellently said jen! for them there is always hope and from hope something will emerge. they still remember their grassroots and culture ... most of us have lost or simply forgotten them :(


OK, spill it!