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Posts Tagged ‘sugar skulls’

As my grandchildren finished their trick or treating up in el norte, I put the final touches on my Día de los Muertos ofrenda (offering) here in Oaxaca.

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A yellow (the color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests; papel picado (cut tissue paper), signifying the union between life and death, has been added, along with the traditional flowers of Day of the Dead — cempasúchil and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds), their scent to guide the spirits, and cockscomb to symbolize mourning.  Visitors brought the sunflower and, since my grandfather, father, and father-in-law were avid gardeners, it is for them!

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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.

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The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the feast I have prepared.  And, there is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer).

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But, most important of all, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

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Revolutionary catrina and catrin for my revolutionary comadre and compadre, Sylvia and Nat.

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Yarn and a crochet hook for my dear grandmother who many of the abuelas (grandmothers) in Oaxaca remind me of — always wearing an apron, never wearing pants, and incredibly adept with crochet and embroidery thread.  And, for my adored grandfather, a San Francisco Giants baseball cap.  My grandparents moved next door at the same time the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco and grandpa and I listened to many games together on his transistor radio, as I helped him in the garden.

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There are other cherished friends and relatives on my altar, but pride of place goes to my parents.  For my father, who was killed when I was only two and a half, there is beer (below the above photo) — alas Victoria not Burgermeister!  And for my mother, a fan to cool herself as she dances and a bottle of port to sip before she sleeps.

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It’s been a two-day labor of love as I wanted everything to be perfect for my difutos (departed) to find their way and feel welcome in my Oaxaca home.

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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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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…

Pan de muertos

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 we went to my favorite panteon (cemetery) at Atzompa, today we visited six villages, and tonight I went with out-of-town guests to the Panteon General here in Oaxaca.   First thing tomorrow morning a comparsa (parade) and then probably off to Teotitlán del Valle.  I’ve already taken hundreds and hundreds of photos, but there has been no time to even look at them!

So, in the meantime…  My pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread) from Sunday’s trip to Tlacolula.

Four small loaves of decorated bread

Very special pan de muerto from Restaurante La Abeja just a few blocks from Casita Colibrí.  This one will eventually get two coats of shellac and join her sister (purchased last year) hanging on the wall.

Bread in the shape of the profile of a woman's face

Last, but not least, my altar where photos of departed family and friends join apples, tangerines, pan de muerto, sugar skulls, candles, and incense of copal.

Day of Dead home altar with fruit, candles, bread, calaveras, sugar skulls, etc.

This is a magical time to be in Oaxaca.

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Sunday, blogger buddy Chris and I drove out to Tlacolula for market day.  It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t your usual Sunday market — there seemed to be twice the number vendors and twice as many shoppers.  It was the Sunday before the Días de los Muertos and this mega mercado was providing those who live in the surrounding area with everything they could possible need for their ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars).

Mounds of apples, tangerines, and other fruit.

mounds of bananas and tangerines

Rows upon rows of pan de muerto (the special Day of the Dead bread).

Pan de muerto

Wheelbarrows full of peanuts and pecans.

Wheelbarrow full of nuts

And, in the city of Oaxaca, special Muertos vendor stalls have been set up between the Benito Juárez Mercado and 5 de Mayo Mercado for city dwellers to stock up.  Intricately decorated sugar and chocolate skulls (calaveras) to satisfy the sweet tooth of Mictlantecuhtli (Goddess of Death).

Shelves of sweet calaveras

Decorated clay incense burners…

Clay three-legged incense burners

waited to burn copal resin and perfume the air with its wonderful, and now familiar, scent.

Bags and piles of copal resin

Doll house size tables were filled with miniature clay food and beverages (favorites of the departed) …

Tiny tables with miniature clay foods and beverages

and included these diminutive plates of mole and arroz (rice) — which I couldn’t resist buying for my altar!

Tiny plates of ceramic mole and arroz

And, of course, there were mounds and mounds of Cempazuchitl (marigolds), the flower of the dead, that grows wild in Oaxaca at this time of year.

Pile of marigolds

All the necessary purchases have been made, now to build my ofrenda.

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