Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day of the Dead - Huaquechula, Puebla

To say it is "off the beaten track" to go to Huaquechula, would be an understatement. It was quite a drive from the City of Puebla. We stopped in many villages on our way there, so I can't tell you for sure how many hours we drove - a few. Once turning off the highway, we were driving through fields of amaranth and other crops that wjocj I couldn't identify. I had never seen amaranth growing before. It is an ancient crop that the Aztecs grew and it was very important to their culture. Prior to turning off the highway, we had driven by miles and miles of flowers growing that are cut and shipped all over Mexico and exported to the USA. It reminded me of the Netherlands. Upon arriving in Huaquechula, this was one of the first buildings I saw. I LOVE this photo and the many textures it relays to the observer. The town is very small and has a relatively small plaza. I first read about Huaquechula in the early 90's in the book, THE SKELETON AT THE FEAST published by The University of Texas Press. I had always wanted to travel there and was thrilled to be there that day.
The photo above was scanned out of the book, but it is exactly as the plaza was the day that I was there. Censers and candle holders were plentiful. They cost pennies. I bought many and gave them to friends upon my return to San Miguel. Their pottery is very primitive and is meant to be used for the feast and then disposed of, I presume.
There is NOTHING primitive about their white, satin altars. White denotes that the departed soul has died within the year. It can be for a child or for an adult. If you click on the photos you can see more in detail the items on the altars.
In the book I mentioned, there is a first person account by Froylan Martinez Cuenca, an altar builder. It is fascinating. In 1989 he had been building altars for 25 years and the average cost of a satin altar was between $2000 and $5000 US dollars. Factor in that the average daily wage then was $4.00US a day and you are boggled about the cost and the IMPORTANCE of these altars to the families. I have read and reread this account, always being overwhelmed by the history and importance of this day in Mexico to the Mexican people.
Notice in this photo the mirror placed on the first tier of the altar. It is so you can see the detail underneath and the pleating of the satin. Amazing isn't it?
To see these altars one goes to the homes of the people. You are welcomed in and offered refreshments - in most cases it was jamaica (a drink made from the flower of hibiscus) and cookies. In the humble houses I entered, there were usually ALL the family members and a few guests, I being one of them. Everyone was so gracious and was very pleased to have "guests".
I have several books on Dia de Muertos and they are the one I mentioned above plus Dia de Muertos by Artes de Mexico, Issue # 62 and Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico - Michoacan.
Can you possibly imagine experiencing anything like this in the USA, I can't.


Anonymous said...


Is the Huaquechula Day of the Dead celebration in the daytime or evening/night? We'd like to go tomorrow, but don't know what time..

Babs said...

Hi Jodiepaula - It is a daytime event and I would suggest going as early as possible. We arrived before noon and when we were leaving the traffic was backed up for about a mile. There is only one road into the village..........We were glad we got there early.

Kim said...

I was there that year that you were. In fact, my dad's from there so we're in Huaque quite often. I love the Day of the Dead celebration. It's beautiful!