Group report created by kerouac2 (who due to a glitch is the "Deleted" in this presentation), with htmb and bixaorellana --
I think that everybody knows that one of the most important things when celebrating Muertos in Mexico is to visit one of the main cemeteries and preferably more than one since the festivities (a more accurate term than "commemorations" in this case) last several days before and after November 1st and each night becomes a time for both decorating the tombs of loved ones and having as much fun as possible. If you are lucky enough to have a knowlegeable guide to lead you to the best places, it just doesn't get any better.
So, we took the plunge in Xoxocotlan just outside of Oaxaca. We managed to arrive at the cemetery just before dusk or rather we almost arrived by taxi because the road had already been closed to cars and we had to walk the last stretch to get to the cemetery.
In spite of all of the flower markets in town, there are still flower sellers at the gates to supply the absentminded at the last minute.
There is of course fun for the whole family, especially the little ones who have no idea what is going on.
People were beginning to stream in, but this was nothing compared to how it would be later.
The gate appeared before us at last, along with the rather questionable water tower.
All that is left is to admire all the work and try not to break one's neck as the light begins to fail.
I'm sure there must be anthropological, historical and sociological analyses of the joyous Day of the Dead in Mexico and particular in Oaxaca with its very "living" Indigenous cultures; the syncretism between traditional beliefs and the teachings of Catholicism. I guess I'm asking Bixa above all (and articles in Spanish are fine).
One can also observe joyous funereal elements in cultures of West African origins, not only in those countries but also in New Orleans...
Hi LaGatta ~ nice tie-in about the W.African and NO celebrations with the remembrance of the dead here. I am pretty sure there is some discussion in an old day of the dead thread(s) about the mingling of pre-hispanic and all saints/souls customs. Let me try to find it and get back to you.
But I hate reading long texts on the computer screen. And I don't see anything specific to Oaxaca, but I could be missing it.
Because Hallowe'en is so commercial and generally imported from US mass culture, one easily forgets that it is also syncretic, between All Saints' and All Souls' days and Celtic belief systems and rituals, that also bear the mark of a region where the difference between summer and winter is so much greater and the loss of sunlight and warmth so ominous in the eons before electricity and central heating.
One thing about the celebrations in Mexico that seems just a bit unfortunate is that a lot of the imagery from the large neighbours to the north is now being incorporated -- plastic jack o'lanterns and some rather insipid ghosts and goblins. However, it is still a very small fraction of the displays and does not (yet) annoy. Many of the things to see would scare the crap out of most children in many other countries.
Anyway, as night fell and the cemetery became for all practical purposes pitch black, I was drawn more to the sources of light.
After stumbling around in the dark and not having a personal tomb to groom and use as a picnic table, we went outside the walls where the food vendors were just setting up. The ambience is more like a carnival midway than anything else.
The giant rectangles of pizza were not even ready yet but the condiments essential to Mexican gastronomy were ready and waiting.
I wonder whether Mexicans have a different attitude to death than in other parts of the western world where it is hidden away, since they know their families will be coming to "visit" every year, decorating tombs, eating and having music played.
Meanwhile, at the main cemetery... or was it an amusement park?
Perhaps a little bit of both. Here is the main entrance.
The inside walls form a mausoleum. On this day, candles are placed in each niche.
There was still a lot of work to do. Employees bring cartons of candles, others take them out of the box and light them and yet other get on ladders to place the candles in every niche. We'll get back to them after dark.
Lights were being set up for a show in the central ruined or never completed chapel in the middle of the cemetery.