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Posts Tagged ‘cempasúchitl’

Our Day in the country’s final destination was San Bernardo Mixtepec. The scenery was spectacular as we drove south from Zimatlán de Álvarez, through the valley, and northeast up into the mountains. It was mid October, nearing Día de Muertos and in the valley there were fields filled with cempasúchitl (marigolds) and cresta de gallo (cockscomb) waiting to be picked for altars. In the meantime, they were being enjoyed by a local grasshopper.

Navigating the narrow, winding, and steep roads, we eventually arrived at the palenque and family home of José Alberto Pablo and his father Mario. Perched on the side of a mountain, it offers stunning views.

Fermentation is done in clay pots in a specially built room, and clay pots are used for distillation. In an eco-friendly feature, he recirculates the condenser water rather than letting it drain into a stream.

At some point in the history of San Bernardo Mixtepc, a persuasive vendor must have introduced the palenqueros to enameled metal condensers. Over time they rust and deposit a small amount of rust into the mezcal — giving it a distinctive yellow-orange color. According to José Alberto, the villagers have become so accustomed to the color, they are reluctant to drink clear mezcal.

José Alberto Pablo, his father Mario, and Craig T. (middle) — a very happy mezcal aficionado.

Yes, we bought! I came away with a lovely rusty tobalá. By the way, they also use stainless and copper condensers to make clear rust-less mezcal — for the less adventurous and to satisfy the mezcal regulatory board.

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Day of the Dead altars and their offerings to the departed vary from region to region and, within those regions, from family to family. Ofrendas (offerings) are an integral part of Día de Muertos. They are a beacon to the departed, an ephemeral work of art, and the sum of their lovingly chosen parts. As you can see from the photos below from several in Barrio de Jalatlaco, even on public display, they are intensely personal and creative.

Galería Shadai – Flowers, papel picado, candles, incense, pan de muertos, fruit, nuts, a casserole, and beverages.

And, there is a catrina tapete de arena (sand carpet) made of sand, beans, and flowers.

However, the only photo is of Maestro Francisco Toledo placed on a side pedestal.

Los Pilares Hotel and Restaurant – Flowers, papel picado, catrinas and catrins, candles, fruit, pan de muertos, and beverages.

And, there is a beautiful floral arch.

No photos of loved ones, but it’s a love story to the state of Oaxaca.

Family ofrenda – 5 de mayo at the corner of La Alianza. Family photos of the departed take center stage with papel picado, cempasúchitl (marigolds), and skeletons playing supporting roles.

Then there are those magnificent floral candles like one sees in Teotitlán del Valle.

And, lest the departed can’t find their way home in the greatly expanded city, an old photo and skeletons await outside the altar alcove to show the way.

Last but not least, my altar and offerings. It was a creative challenge to set up in the new Casita Colibrí.

It’s smaller than previous years, but I have figured out a way to make it bigger and better next year.

A yellow (color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) tablecloth; papel picado (cut tissue paper) signifying the union between life and death; cempasúchitl (marigolds) and flor de muerto from the Sierra Norte, their scent to guide the spirits; and cresta de gallo (cockscomb) to symbolize mourning. There is salt to make sure the souls stay pure and chocolate, peanuts, pecans, apples, mandarin oranges, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) to nourish them. The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the fiesta I have prepared for them. There is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer). And, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

With candles lit and incense burning, I’m loving it and hoping my very dearly departed will find it warm, nourishing, and welcoming.

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My new neighborhood, Barrio de Jalatlaco, has a long history — one that predates the arrival of the Spanish. Community spirit and traditions are strong, including making her departed feel welcome during Día de Muertos. Thus the bright orange and spicy scent of the flor de muerto, cempasúchitl (flower of the dead, marigolds) are everywhere.

Papel picado, in seasonal colors, ripple above the streets and cast fluttering shadows.

Floral arches welcome the living and the departed.

And skeletons are seen hanging out in doorways, windows, and sidewalks.

Tomorrow, altars and their offerings.

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