What is Dia de Muertos?
Dia de Muertos is a Mexican celebration of Mesoamerican origins honoring the dead. They are mainly held on 1 and 2 November , although in some places begins from October 31 , coinciding with the Catholic celebrations of Day Souls and All Saints.
The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008 the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In Brazil there is a similar celebration known as Dia dos Finados, although this festival does not have the same pre-Hispanic roots that the Day of the Dead.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.
*pictured, your average day in Mexico
What are the origns of it?
The cult of death in Mexico is not new, it was already practiced since pre-Columbian times . Also, in the Aztec calendar you can see that between 18 months that are this calendar, there were at least six festivals dedicated to the dead. Later, Christian missionaries of colonial times partly accepted the traditions of ancient Mesoamerican peoples, fusing with European traditions, to introduce Christianity among these peoples .
The origins of the Day of the Dead in Mexico predated the arrival of the Spaniards. There are records of ethnic celebrations in Mexica , Maya , Purépecha and Totonac cultures. The rituals that celebrate the life of the ancestors are made in these civilizations from pre-Columbian times. Among the prehistoric peoples was common practice to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the Day of the Dead was commemorated the ninth month of the Aztec solar calendar , near the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacíhuatl**, known as the "Lady Death" (now related to " La Catrina "character of Jose Guadalupe Posada ) and wife of Mictlantecuhtli , Lord of the land of the dead. The festivities were dedicated to the celebration of children and the lives of deceased relatives.
**pictured Mictecacíhuatl and her husband, Mictlantecuhtli
**tumblr rendition of Mictecacíhuatl and her husband, Mictlantecuhtli
Dia de Muertos Traditions
Common Dia de Muertos traditions include creating altars to honor the dead, laying out offerings, sharing stories of the deceased, as well as cleaning and decorating their graves. Because Day of the Dead is a very festive, creative holiday, current Dia de Muertos customs also include festivals, parades, theater plays (Don Juan Tenorio being the most tradiotional one) and the making of Dia de los Muertos crafts.
The key purpose behind these Dia de Muertos customs is to make contact with the spirits of the dead (or memories, if you don't believe in ghost and all that), to let them know that they are not forgotten and that their loved ones on earth still care about them. It is a way of keeping the connection between loved ones alive, though they may be physically separated by death.
Dia de Muertos traditions can vary from town to town, with each community embracing their own unique blend of rituals, customs, and celebrations. Although the Dia de Muertos customs in a small village in Mexico may differ from the Dia de Muertos customs in a large American city like San Francisco, there are still several common Dia de Muertos traditions that are carried out no matter what the location.
Here are the most common and important Day of the Dead traditions:
** Creating an altar with offerings (known as ofrenda)
** Visiting, cleaning, and decorating gravesites
** Telling stories about the deceased
** Making food for the deceased, to be placed on altars
** Making or buying sugar skulls and pan de muerto
**The altars and ofrendas are one of the most important Dia de Muertos customs
Creating Dia de Muertos altars is one of the most important Dia de Muertos traditions. Dia de Muertos altars are typically created inside people's homes to honor the spirits of their deceased loved ones. When Dia de Muertos is embraced by the community, non-secular altars are also created in schools, government offices, and other community spaces.
The materials commonly used to make an offering to the Day of the Dead has a meaning, and are among others:
The candy skulls have written on their foreheads the name (or in some cases living people, in the form of modest joke that offends not mentioned in particular), and consume relatives or friends.
The pan de muerto is a representation of the Eucharist , and was added by the Spanish missionaries . It is a sweet muffin baked in different shapes, from simple rounded shapes to skulls, bones adorned with forms made with the same bread; It is sprinkled with sugar and is made ​​anise .
Flowers. During the period 1 to November 2 families usually clean and decorate the graves with colorful wreaths of roses and sunflowers, among others, but mainly cempasúchitl , which is believed to attract and guide the souls of the dead. Almost all cemeteries are visited by many people.
Cempasúchitl flower is a symbol of sun glare, which is considered the origin of everything. Guides souls to indicate the direction in which you reach outside your home. Each flower represents a life, and in the case of late means that this still has a place within the whole, and that has not been forgotten by his friends and family. Interestingly, in the town of Huaquechula, in the state of Puebla, there cempasúchitl flower is used, but the tombs are decorated with cloud and gladiola .
The offering and the visit of souls. It is believed that the souls of the children return visit on November first , and that the souls of adults returning on Day 2 . In the event that you can not visit the grave, either because there is no tomb deceased or because the family is far away to visit her, also made ​​detailed altars in homes, where they get gifts , which can be food dishes, pan de muerto, water glasses, mezcal , tequila , pulque or atole , cigarettes and even toys for the souls of children. All this is placed next to the portrait of the deceased, surrounded by candles.
Portrait of person remembered: The portrait of the deceased suggests that the visit bore the evening of 2 November. This image honors the top of the altar. It stands back and front of her mirror is placed so that the deceased can only see the reflection of their relatives and they see their deceased only once.
Paint or chrome Souls of Purgatory: The image of the souls in purgatory serves to request the departure of purgatory the soul of the deceased in case they find there.
Twelve candles: Although they may be less, must be in pairs, preferably purple, with crowns and wax flowers. Candles, especially if they are purple, are mourning. The four candles in cross represent the four cardinal points, so that the soul can be oriented to find their way home and apart from water and salt.
Cruz: Used in most of the altars, is introduced by Spanish missionaries, in order to incorporate the catechism such a strong tradition among the Indians, as the veneration of the dead symbol. To remind her faith, since the Ash Wednesday is told the phrase, "Remember you are dust and to dust you", which is remembered returning to the earth from which it came. The cross is on top of the altar on the side of the image of the deceased and this can be salt, ash, earth or lime.
Pumpkin on blemish: Pumpkin ( Cucurbita moschata ) occupies a privileged place in both traditional pre-Hispanic cuisine as in today. It is part of the food tetralogy of the country, next to the corn , the beans and chili , with which it is grown in the same cornfield . She takes advantage of all stems, guides, flowers, fruits and seeds. On the altar is prepared as sweet, called pumpkin blemish that the container used in the manufacture of sugar is called "trash"; Pumpkin is confitaba boilers that sugar was manufactured: cooked with sugar, cinnamon, hawthorn , pieces of sugar cane or other ingredients, according to the taste of those who cook. The preparation of the pumpkin blemish is to introduce such fruit in a basket of palm is candied in boilers where sugar is produced. This is the traditional way, because in the old mills machines concentration of guar or cane juice into two conical boiler, placed on one oven (dumbbell) is made; one of the boilers was malERA, and one strikeout. Currently he prepares baked in honey brown sugar or brown sugar, formerly called strikeout also to bless the houses. The crystallized sweet called calabazate .
Confetti: Also usually adorn the offerings with confetti which is a Mexican crafts that are made ​​with tissue paper cut with figures of skeletons and skulls, this is considered as a representation of the festive joy of the Day of the Dead and wind.
Tejocote Rod: with this step will open the soul returning to visit relatives, so you should not remove the thorns.
Cane bow and flowers: in some parts of Mexico are used to make this bow, which symbolizes the passage to a life of purification and abandonment of the earthly body
Copal and incense : Copal is a pre-Hispanic element that cleans and purifies the energy of a place, sanctifying the environment.
Water: Water is very important because, among other meanings, reflecting the purity of the soul, heaven continuous regeneration of life and crops and the offering is represented with a full glass of water it helps the spirit mitigate their thirst after the journey from the world of the dead.
Food: traditional food or who was liked by the deceased is placed so that the soul is placed enjoyment.
Alcoholic beverages: Are drinks that taste of the deceased were called "drink", usually they are "horses" of tequila, pulque, mezcal and beer.
On Dia de Muertos, many families will congregate in graveyards to clean the graves of their loved ones who have passed. They decorate the graves with Mexican marigolds called cempasúchil, often lovingly arranged. Graves are adorned with photos, mementos and gifts, such as the dead person's favorite foods and drinks. These gifts, or offerings, are meant to attract the dead, helping them find their way back to their loved ones on earth. The burning candles and scent of copal incense also help guide the departed back to earth.
The tradition of grave-cleaning on Dia de Muertos takes on a festive air. Graveyard picnics are common as people interact with the spirits of the deceased as if they were still alive. These graveyard visits often turn into all-night vigils with candlelit ceremonies and hired bands to play the favorite music of the dead.
The event becomes a social gathering marked by a combination of festivity and introspection, as everyone honors their dead loved ones, communicating with their spirits while reflecting on their own mortality in the circle of life and death and sharing stories about the Deceased
Part of honoring the dead is to tell stories about them, such as funny anecdotes or poems that poke fun at their quirks (known as calaveras). It is believed that the dead do not want to be thought of in a sad or somber manner - they want to be remembered and celebrated, since they are still alive – just in another form.
Therefore Dia de Muertos is the right time to poke fun at your late Aunt Maria's obsession with hair spray or to re-tell that day when Uncle Jose was so drunk he fell into the lake. In fact, you'd even place a can of Aunt Maria's favorite hairspray on her altar and a bottle of Uncle Jose's favorite gargle balster on his altar.
In Mexican culture, these stories form part of each family's oral tradition, as tales of family members are passed on from generation to generation. It keeps the family history alive.
Calaveras and La Catrina
A calavera is a representation of a human skull. The term is most often applied to decorative or edible skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Dia de Muertos and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls' Day. Calavera can also refer to any artistic representations of skulls, such as the lithographs of José Guadalupe Posada. The most widely known calaveras are created with cane sugar and are decorated with items such as colored foil, icing, beads, and feathers.
Poetry written for the Day of the Dead are known as literary calaveras, and are intended to humorously criticize the living while reminding them of their mortality. Literary calaveras appeared during the second half of the nineteenth century, when drawings critical of important politicians began to be published in the press. Living personalities were depicted as skeletons exhibiting recognizable traits, making them easily identifiable. Additionally, drawings of dead personalities often contained text elements providing details of the deaths of various individuals.
Cerca del 2 de noviembre
una tragedia ocurrió
pues como huracán Patricia
la huesuda se disfrazó
Con un kilómetro de ancho
hasta a la NASA espantó
pero cuando tocó tierra
algo extraño sucedió
Dicen que fue por la Sierra
que su fuerza aminoró
otros creen en un milagro
debido a la oración
Solo daños materiales
el fenómeno ocasionó
y con el ojo cuadrado
a todo el mundo dejó
Se reportó saldo blanco
y una que otra inundación
por fortuna en ésta vez
la muerte nos la peló.
La muerte se puso lista
Se volvió internacional
Se aburrió de los platillos
Mexicanos pa variar
Dijo me voy al gabacho
A buscar a un tal Donaldo
Dicen que anda de alzadito
a la raza provocando
Pos que no sabes chamaco
Que en el gringo dominamos
Que somos gran mayoría
Y los que más trabajamos?
Nos acusas delincuentes
Y también de haber robado
Mejor lávate los dientes,
Que de plano estas drogado?
La huesuda lo encontró
A Donald Trump con presteza
De la mata lo agarro
La mata de la cabeza
Ahora si mi canijito
Mi cabeza de estropajo
Ya te metí en el costal
Y de esto yo no me rajo
La Calavera Catrina is a 1910–1913 zinc etching by famous Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada. The image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her chapeau en attende is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century. She is offered as a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives who, Posada felt, were aspiring to adopt European aristocratic traditions in the pre-revolutionary era. She in particular has become an icon of the Mexican Día de los Muertos.
Originally called La Calavera Garbancera, the etching was created sometime between 1910 and 1913 by José Guadalupe Posada as a broadside. The work's fame however comes from its appearance in the first posthumous edition, which was published from the original plates in 1930 by Frances Toor, Blas Vanegas Arroyo and Pablo O'Higgins, entitled Mongrafia: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano. Calavera Catrina.
While the original work by Posada introduced the character, the popularity of La Calavera Catrina as well as her name is derived from a work by artist Diego Rivera in his 1948 work Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda).
**Pictured Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda).
Rivera's mural was painted between the years 1946 and 1947, and is the principal work of the "Museo Mural Diego Rivera" adjacent to the Alameda in the historic center of Mexico City. It measures 15 meters long and it stood at the end of Alameda Park. The mural survived the 1985 earthquake, which destroyed the hotel, and was later moved across the street to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, built after the earthquake for that purpose.
Rivera depicts a culmination of 400 years of Mexico's major figures, which include himself, Posada, and his wife Frida Kahlo. Rivera took inspiration from the original etching and gave Calavera a body as well as more of an identity in her elegant outfit as she is poised between himself and Posada. The intent seemed to be to show the tradition of welcoming and comfort the Mexicans have with death and especially the identity of a lady of death, harking back to the heritage of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl. La Catrina has come to symbolize not only Día de los Muertos and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself, but originally La Catrina was an elegant or well-dressed woman, so it refers to rich people. Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded of that.
The culture of La Calavera Catrina's has ties to political satire and is also a well-kept tradition as the original was inspired by the polarizing reign of dictator Porfirio Díaz, whose accomplishments in modernizing and bringing financial stability to Mexico pale against his government's repression, corruption, extravagance and obsession with all things European. Concentration of fantastic wealth in the hands of the privileged few brewed discontent in the hearts of the suffering many, leading to the 1910 rebellion that toppled Diaz in 1911 and became the Mexican Revolution.
She also symbolizes the contrasts between the upper and lower classes, for times were cruel. The social classes were extremely segmented and the highest class was the most fortunate, enjoying many privileges; in contrast, the lower classes were nearly invisible. To explain and rescue the folklore of worshiping the dead, while showing this off to high society, José Guadalupe Posada made caricatures of Death, one of these drawings being the famous calavera with an elegant hat, though only representing the head and bust with a sophisticated and skeletal essence.
What is it with Mexicans and death?¡?
Let's ask Guillermo Del Toro:
“Ultimately you walk life side-by-side with death, and the Day of the Dead, curiously enough, is about life. It’s an impulse that’s intrinsic to the Mexican character. And when people ask me, what is so Mexican about your films, I say me. Because I’m not a guy that hides the monster: I show it to you with the absolute conviction that it exists. And that’s the way I think we view death. We don’t view it as the end of end all. You say ‘carpe diem’ in Dead Poets Society; we have that in a much more tequila-infused, mariachi-soundtrack kind of way.”
The Mexican way of life and death, according to Del Toro, is a legacy of pre-Columbian times, from Mayan and Aztec cultures that accepted that blood would be spilt in the natural course of things. “It is unnatural to deny effort, adversity and pain,” he says. “I think we live in a culture that is actually hedging all of it towards comfort and immediacy, things that scare me. All the things that they sell us as a way of life scare me.”
With that said. Have a nice Dia de Muertos, always remember your departed loved ones. And laugh and have a drink with La Muerte, after all, she's the one that have to worry about the tab.