Monday, October 27, 2008

Day of the Dead in Tlaxcala and Santa Maria Tonantzintla

Using the city of Puebla as a base, I traveled with the Los Amigos de Arte Popular group to villages around Puebla. I prefer the villages and smaller areas where there is such a strong connection instead of the grandiose altars of the big cities as you will see tomorrow on the post on Puebla. All are beautiful but, for me, some have more connection. Traveling into Santa Maria Tonantzintla, Puebla this gate caught my eye. It was covered in cempasuchitl flowers. These flowers are grown abundantly in this area.
They are similar to our marigolds but much, much larger. The word cempasuchitl in Nahua (the language of the Aztecs) means twenty flowers. The Aztecs believed that the sun god sent the flowers to adorn the graves of their loved ones.

And, I'm sure most of you know why towns have a Spanish name and an indigenous name. But, for those of you who don't - the Spanish added the "Christian" name in front of the indigenous name in an attempt to eliminate the culture of the peoples. In order to placate the Spaniards, it was left that way, but most indigenous refer to their villages only by the last name, their native name.
This church in Santa Maria Tonantzintla is, without a doubt, my favorite church in all of Mexico. It is exhuberant and vibrant and ALL hand carved by the indigenous. The story goes that the priest had to return to Spain and showed photos to the Indians of what he wanted carved and told them to finish the church. When he returned, this is what he found. There is hardly an inch of surface not covered by handcarved items. Hidden in these carvings are the "holy" things that the Indians considered sacred and part of what the Spanish considered a "heathen" religion. To me it says a lot about the Mexican people. They will appear to acquiesce, but in the end, they will have the last word! I find that enchanting.
In traveling to Tlaxcala, which is a small state and a town about an hour from Puebla, one is enchanted with the cleanliness, quaintness and beauty of this area. The zocalo in Tlacala had altars set up on the perimeter and most of the altars were honoring people who had died trying to cross the border into the USA. My heart was wrenched to know that over 400 people - sons, daughters, mothers and fathers had died trying to go to make money for their families. Notice the cross made of salt, one of the important "ingredients" of the altars.


Steve Cotton said...

"To me it says a lot about the Mexican people. They will appear to acquiesce, but in the end, they will have the last word! I find that enchanting."

Good grief, an entire nation made up of my mother.

Babs said...

STEVE, you made me laugh out loud. said...

Steve, I love your comment. Did we all have mothers like that? Did I become one? Holy moly!
My oldest grandaughter (age 11) said yesterday she wants to go to Mexico for Dia de lost Muertos. I told her "me, too!"

Unknown said...

What a lovely church! I lived in Mexico a long time ago. I forgot about the exquisite churches. Here in Honduras, I lived in Comayagua for while which had 3 very old churches but much plainer than what Mexican churches usually look like.