Many Months Ago in Mexico: Part 2 – Dia De Los Muertos

Part 2 of Many Months Ago in Mexico: This blog entry is told by Kelly because Milo was back in Bergen, Norway completing the first semester of graduate school.

This is my friend, Ale. She is incredibly awesome. She is a trained theatre performer and musician.

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Since we last saw each other 7 years ago, she has learned how to play the accordion and professionally preforms every week in both Cuernavaca and Mexico City. She gave me a short show in her living room for free! They were fun songs which we followed up with hours of talking and catching up. It was so very nice to talk with her and see her multiple times during my stay.

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The next day, I went to class and at night went to the zocalo (city center) to meet up with Monica and Julie. We were excited to go to Jardin Borda because of the displays of offerings for the Day of the Dead.

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This incredible skull was made of flowers and a crowd favorite.

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All around there were people dressed up as calaveras. They were more than happy to take pictures with anyone who asked.

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The next day at school, we started decorating for our own offerings to the dead. The owners of the school, Jorge and Martha looking at the alter that we set up to honor the dead.

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We are filling vases with different flowers and plucking the petals off of stems to make the camino (pathway) from the doors to the alter.

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We put pictures of famous revolutionary leaders and family and friends on the alter. I put a picture of my mother, Lisa, my paternal grandparents, Charlotte and Jack, as well as my cousin Whitney’s baby, Kai. We also put food, drinks, candles and candies on the alter for the dead to eat for their visit. A very important component to the offerings on the alter is water. Mexicans say that their dead loved ones are incredibly thirsty when they come back to visit. I put milk out for Kai.

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Once we felt satisfied with our decorations, we all enjoyed a piece of postre and talked about the significance of the holiday.

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Later that day, I went back to the house and made an alter to honor the loved ones that my friends and I have lost.

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Here you can see the pictures of my family members more clearly. Later that night, I went with my friend, Mera, to Ocotopec, a town which is famous for its people opening their doors to visitors and displaying elaborate offerings to the loved ones that had died in the year since the last celebration.

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When going to look at an offering, it is important to bring the family a candle as a gift. The next day they bring all of the candles to the graveyard to light in memory of their loved ones.

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Families set out all of their loved ones favorite foods and drinks for the occasion.

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My friends informed me that people will spend as much as $10,000 US dollars on offerings. They even decorate the exterior of their house, sometimes with intricate art made of beans and seeds, like above.

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The families buy all new clothes and shoes for the recently deceased, so when they come back to visit, they are dressed better than anyone at the party.

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Families spend plenty of time and energy cooking and giving food and drinks to visitors. This family gave tacos of rice and eggs and Atole, a hot, sweet corn drink. Other families gave tamales, tequila, bread, and meat. We were stuffed after visiting the third offering but it is rude not to take at least a little food offered. We started putting bread and tamales in our bag to eat the next day.

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Flower petals and candles lit the way to alters and offerings.

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A lot of people had signs to remind visitors that this was not halloween and people dressed in western costumes would not be admitted. I didn’t see anyone dressed in western costumes, buy many more people dressed as calaveras. They, of course, were admitted into open houses.

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Music filled the air with traditional songs.

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Everyone was very respectful and always walked to the right of the petals to keep the traffic flowing.

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This man loved avocados so much that there was an entire table dedicated to them.

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We walked around for hours and visited at least a dozen alters and offerings. As you can see, they are very grand and colorful. I believe this is a much healthier way to honor our loved ones who have passed. I’m sure people spend upwards of $10,000 on sad funerals. While it is important to mourn in whichever way one deems necessary, especially if we feel a life was taken too soon, I still believe our loved ones that have passed would want us to remember the good times. They would want us to remember the undying memories, the entirety of their life and not focus on the end.

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The next morning Marisol, Yuri and I went to the cemetary where Marisol’s father rests.

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When we got there, his grave was already decorated by other members of his family, but we cleaned it and replaced some of the wilted flowers. We also made our own decorations to add to the display.

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Marisol and Yuri made crosses out of flowers and because he loved coffee, Marisol poured coffee on his grave.

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I helped decorate his grave and Marisol said that each flower I set down was not only for her father, but for my mother, grandparents, and baby cousin.

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I put a cup of coffee on the grave to represent my mother and a tiny flower on top to represent Kai, my cousins baby. To me, it symbolized my mother holding Kai.

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After we finished decorating Marisol’s father’s tombstone, we walked around the graveyard to look at other peoples decorations. I asked before I took every picture and most were very pleased to have their work documented.

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This man sat, visiting loved ones and read them their favorite story.

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People repainted placards, crosses and bars and  made their loved ones graves look immaculate.

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Families enjoyed favorite foods of the departed the entire day.

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In the background there is a band playing requested songs. The graveyard was full of life. Music, the smell of food, playing children and the occasional mourners. While for some, the death of their loved ones was fresh and raw, so they couldn’t help but be sad. But, The Day of the Dead is not about mourning the loss of people, it’s about celebrating their lives and spending a day in their company. It’s a special day where the dead come back to visit, eat, drink, and most importantly, party.

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After looking around the graveyard, we went to get some of Marisol’s father’s favorite foods. Of course, mine was without cheese or cream, like my mother would have ordered it.

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We went to Marisol’s father’s favorite restaurant where the most delicious tortillas were being made to order. We bought 2 dozen to take home.

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Marisol enjoyed her father’s favorite dish.

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Afterwards, we went to Marisol’s father’s favorite place; his farm. We collected fruit and went to sit on his favorite bench.

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Afterwards, we collected more fruit and vegetables to take home to make dinner.

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It was an especially hot day so Marisol suggested we have a beer on the ride home. She was driving, so had to wait until we actually got home to drink. I, on the other hand, asked from the car window for the merchant to open mine right then and there.

This concludes part 2 of, Many Months Ago in Mexico. Stay tuned for more, including more of Cuernavaca and visits to Taxco, Tepotzlan and Mexico City!

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