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Posts Tagged ‘veruche’

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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Today I ventured down to Calle de Ignacio Rayón (the block between the Benito Juárez and 20 de Noviembre mercados) to purchase flowers for my Día de Muertos ofrenda (an altar of offerings).  On the list was cockscomb (cresta de gallo or borla de Santa Teresa), marigolds (cempasúchitl), and veruche (also known as flor de muertos).  I wasn’t alone, the sidewalks were crowded with other shoppers in search of the same traditional flowers, fruits, nuts, copal, and other items to place on their ofrendas.

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Veruche is a tiny relative of the marigold that grows wild in the valley of Oaxaca at this time of year.  Yellow was the color of death in southern Mexico, long before the Spanish set foot on the continent and, along with the scent of the flowers and smoke from the candles and copal, it is thought to attract the difuntos (spirits of the dead) to bring them to the ofrendas prepared for them.

Muchisimas gracias to Shawn D. Haley for his informative presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library on the Zapotec celebration of Día de Muertos.  Needless to say, I also purchased the book he coauthored with photographer Curt Fukuda, The Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca.

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