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Posts Tagged ‘Día de los Muertos’

After the wretched week that was (RIP Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, not to mention the USA elections), reviewing my Día de Muerto photos from Teotitlán del Valle was the ideal tonic.

On November 1, as I previously mentioned, after strolling and sitting and contemplating and conversing our way through the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros, we drove to the home of friends, Zacarias Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez, in Teotitlán.  Arriving at 3:00 PM, we were just in time to join the family and other guests, as Zac gave words of welcome to the difuntos, who had also just made their appearance.

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Our pan de muerto and mezcal joined the other offerings on the altar to provide nourishment to the departed while we, the living, sat down at the long table for a little cervesa, mezcal, and more than a few of the 500+ tamales Emilia had made.  After lots of eating and conversation, we walked across the courtyard to give our regards to Antonio Ruiz (weaver of one of my treasured rugs), wife Claudia, and their children (the beautiful Beatriz and her lively brothers, Diego and Antonito), and to see Antonio’s new showroom (Chris has a photo in his Familia blog post) and their altar.

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Invited to return to the Ruiz home the following day for Emilia’s famous mole negro, we also stopped at the village panteón to listen for the wind that signals the departure of the difuntos at 3:00 PM on November 2.

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We also stopped to pay our respects at the grave of Arnulfo Mendoza, though it took a little searching to find it, as the large tree that stood next to it had fallen, leaving only a stump.

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Both days, the drive back to the city was filled with the warmth, peace, and joy that Teotitlán del Valle always seems to impart.

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Under the strong and comforting gaze of Picacho, who could ask for a better resting place.

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The dead don’t arrive in the valley of Oaxaca all at once.  The cosmic difunto air traffic controller has scheduled their arrival at different times on different days, from October 31 through November 3, to avoid celestial congestion.

Santa María Atzompa’s departed are among the first to return, arriving on the night of October 31.  Flower and food vendors line the walkway leading to the panteón as grandparents, parents, teens, and small children stream in with arms full of flowers, candles, buckets, and brooms.  Because is built on a slope and there are almost no paths, footing can be treacherous, especially in the dark when only candles on the graves light the way.  At one time, perhaps tombs were positioned on a grid, but no more and it seems to be filled to capacity.  I guess that’s why one side of the panteón has been opened up (one of the walls removed), the field beyond leveled, and a new wall around the field, connected to the old, constructed.  (You can click on images for a larger view.)

On November 1, in the early afternoon, it has become our custom to visit the cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros, before bringing pan de muerto and mezcal to the home of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  In contrast to the higgledy-piggledy of Atzompa, the panteón in Tlacolula emanates a sense of order and serenity.  I wonder, could the tranquility comes from the 500 year old ahuehuete trees (hijos of el Tule, we were told) that reign over the tombs of the departed and make for an amazing play of light and shadow throughout?

On November 2, we returned to Teotitlán, but I will save that for another blog post.  However, that was not the end of the road.  In the category of, no rest for the living, the following day we drove south to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is the village known for their beautiful flowers and exquisite floral embroidery.  And, it is said that because the living are so busy providing flowers to other parts of the valley, the departed wait until November 3 to return. (See the book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca by Shawn D. Haley and Curt Fukuda.)  I’m sure, like we, the difuntos are dazzled by the intricacy of floral designs that family members have created to decorate their tombs in welcome.

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Life extended into death, and vice-versa.  Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.”

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Poco a poco (little by little) my ofrenda has been constructed and composed.  A yellow (the color of death in prehispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests and papel picado, signifying the union between life and death, has been added.

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Photos of departed loved ones have been placed, along with apples, oranges, and nuts to nourish the difuntos, sal to make sure the souls stay pure, cempasúchitl and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds) — their scent to guide the spirits, cockscomb to symbolize mourning, the previously mentioned flor de muerto from the mountains above Díaz Ordaz, and copal incense to draw the spirits home and ward off evil.

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Sugar skulls, catrinas, and a few of the favorite things of my parents, grandparents, and in-laws have also been added.  Lest the spirits become thirsty, there is water, mezcal, cervesa, and a bottle of port (for my mom) to drink.

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Last night, the candles and copal incense were lit to guide my loved ones to my Oaxaca home and, just to make sure, I sprinkled some cempasúchitl petals outside to help them find their way.

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It may not be the house where they lived, but I’m hoping they too believe, When you live in your heart, you are always home.

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Celebrations in Oaxaca surrounding Día de Muertos are beginning.  This past week, we, members of the Mexico Travel Photography Facebook group, were issued a 5-day “Day of the Dead” photo challenge by moderator, Norma Schafer.  There are always so many favorite images from so many events that I never get around to posting, so this was my opportunity.  My five…

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Panteón, Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca on Oct. 31, 2015

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Offering on tomb in Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca on Nov. 1, 2015

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Muerteada, morning after the night before, Nov. 2, 2014, San Agustín Etla, Oaxaca

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Sun sets on Santa María Atzompa panteón, Oct. 31, 2014

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On the Alcalá in Oaxaca City, Oct. 31, 2014

And, five more, just because…

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Santa María Atzompa, Oct. 31, 2015

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San Pablo Villa de Mitla, ofrenda with pan de muertos, Nov. 1, 2014

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Chocolate calaveras at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Cempasuchil (marigold) vendor at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca, Oct. 31, 2015

That’s all folks, for now.  Stay tuned for more to come from this year.

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Dressed in their best festival finery…

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The Catrinas have begun arriving in town…

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You see them loitering on street corners…

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Hanging out on balconies (I think she’s in drag)…

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All the better to see and be seen.

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However, in the end, no matter how fancy their finery and glittery their jewels, as José Guadalupe Posada wrote,

La muerte es democrática, ya que a fin de cuentas, güera, morena, rica o pobre, toda la gente acaba siendo calavera 

(Death is democratic, because after all, light-skin, brown, rich or poor, everyone ends up being a skull)

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Marigolds have begun appearing in the city.  The yellow of this flor de muertos (flower of the dead) will help guide the difuntos (deceased) home to feast with their families during the upcoming Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Known as cempazuchil (also spelled cempasúchitl), flower pots and/or vases of marigolds may find their way onto ofrendas (the offerings on home altars for the difuntos).  Some scatter the petals on their muertos altar, others in a trail leading from the street into the house and up to the ofrenda.

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Next week, seasonal Day of the Dead markets will spring up and shopping will go into high gear.  Needless to say, I will join in buying the traditional fruits, nuts, flowers, and sugar skulls to place on my ofrenda.  And, along with friends, I will pay my respects to the difuntos of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  It’s a special time of year in Oaxaca.

Once a librarian, always a librarian, thus a few resources about Day of the Dead:

A brief note:  Celebrations vary throughout Mexico and, even in the valley of Oaxaca, traditions differ from village to village, but the above articles will give you a general idea.  You can also click HERE for my Día de Muertos blog posts from previous years.

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Young and old, male and female…

it’s a family affair, labor of love…

as the tombs of San Antonino Castillo Velasco are painstakingly decorated on November 3.

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This year, around and about Oaxaca during Día de Muertos, especially for my skeleton loving grandson.  (Click on images to enlarge)

Besos y abrazos, Abue. 😉

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To borrow from Meredith Willson, it’s beginning to look a lot like Muertos…P1150004

Everywhere you go.

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No “five and tens” here…

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Just a street stall set up in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Beginning to shop for my Día de Muertos ofrenda.

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If it’s November 2nd, it must be morning muerteada madness in San Agustín Etla .  A few faces in the crowd from the Barrio San José contingent…

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These guys had been dancing through the streets all night.  Cervesa seemed to be the beverage of choice this morning, though, bottles of clear liquid was also being passed around — and I’m sure it wasn’t  water!

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Had to snap this guy — not only was his makeup gory and great, he topped it off with a San Francisco 49er cap.

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And, then there was this boy…  As with all the traditions here, children observe, learn, and participate at a very young age.

 

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As a treat for residents and visitors during the Muertos festivities, last night and tonight, the City of Oaxaca is presenting, “Manjares de Todos Santos” — a video mapping light and sound show at Santo Domingo de Guzmán and the Basílica de la Soledad.  Last night was a mob scene at Santo Domingo, so we opted for Soledad, where we had a ringside seat.

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¡Espectacular!

Chris, of Oaxaca-The Year After fame, shot video and I will post a link when he gets it uploaded to YouTube.  Update:  And the link is: http://oaxacanyear.blogspot.mx/2014/11/mapping-la-soledad.html

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Calacas for my grandson…

From the streets, sidewalks, and windows of Oaxaca.

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Visits to mercados in the city and Tlacolula have been made.  Along with mandarinas and manzanas, cempasuchil and cresta de gallo have been purchased.

Women selling marigolds and cockscomb

Pan de muerto has been selected…

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A calaverita has been chosen…

Sugar skulls

Mezcal and water have been poured, dishes of chocolate and salt prepared, candles brought out, and photos of departed family and friends and a few of their favorite things have been collected.  Yesterday, it was time to prepare my ofrenda.

My muertos altar

As dusk descended, friends gathered; the candles and copal were lit…

Close up of my muertos altar

And we offered our silent — and sometimes not so silent — prayers to the baseball spirits to bring victory to the San Francisco Giants in game 7 of the World Series.

San Francisco Giants' cap and photo of my grandparents

The spirits listened!!!  Thinking of you, grandpa….

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Last night, flipping through my Cablemas channels, I happened upon Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film, George Harrison: Living in the Material World.  I’ve seen this beautiful documentary before, could watch it many more times, and how could I resist, on Black Friday night, the wonderful irony of the title?  I’m sure George is chuckling somewhere.

Yesterday marked the twelfth anniversary of George’s death (no doubt the reason it was being shown) and, as I watched and listened to Olivia describe the importance George placed on preparing for one’s death, I couldn’t help but reflect on Día de los Muertos.  All things must pass; death as a part of the journey of being.  And, some of this year’s Muertos photos seemed to be ready to let go of most of their color…

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All Things Must Pass
by George Harriso
n

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away

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As we have done in previous years, we returned to San Antonino Castillo Velasco on November 1 to watch families begin the preparation of the graves of their loved ones for Día de los Muertos.  In a process unique to this pueblo known for the cultivation of flowers, family members mix the area’s very fine dirt with water; spread it on the top and sides of the grave; smooth it with a trowel, as if they were getting ready to lay tile; using a nail, they outline designs and religious imagery into the mud coating; and then use flowers (fresh and dried), to “paint” the scene.  

This year’s late rainy season brought torrential rains on November 2 and it must have interrupted the decorating, because when we returned on November 3, at the same time as usual, there was still much work to be done.  However, no one seemed the least perturbed; peace, tranquility, and quiet joy prevailed and, as always, it enveloped us.

(Music: Marimba band performing, “Díos Nunca Muere,” written by Oaxaqueño composer and violinist Macedonio Alcalá.)

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