Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day of the Dead - Patzcuaro, Tzurumutaro, Ihuatzio and Cucuchucho

To me, the "ultimate" Day of the Dead experience is going to Patzcuaro in the State of Michoacan. It is a moving and emotional experience for me. One should arrive at least four days before the actual day to experience the frenzy of activity leading up to the night of Dia de los Muertos.
The flower markets are abuzz with activity. Trucks arriving with loads of all the flowers to be used in the altars, ofrendas, graves and road decorations. The fragrance for blocks around the market, which is alongside the Basilica, assaults your senses. People carry off their flowers on their heads, in their arms and in baskets - whatever works for them. I have always wished that I was an artist and could capture the brilliance and colors of this market. But, ahh, one could not capture the fragrance.
There is an artisans' market set up in the Zocalo Grande and traffic becomes impassable. When last I attended, I met more Europeans then Americans. At midnight we headed OUT of Patzcauro to
Tzurumutaro with a zillion other people. Walking up to the cemetery in this village, I was first assailed with the fragrance of incense and then once in the cemetery the candles everywhere and flowers for as far as the eye could see. It was COLD, very cold and had been raining all day the last time I was there. Because the soil on the graves is turned prior to this night, it is muddy and slippery and it is necessary to walk very carefully, so one does not fall on the graves.
Families, made up of small children, teenagers, parents and grandparents and all other relatives sit quietly beside the grave in contemplation for hours and hours. No one was bothered by the crowds or activity. I wondered how many kids in America would sit quietly in the cold all night.
Mvoing on to the next village, Ihuatzio, we met my dear friend Arminda and her husband, Kevin. Earlier in the day we had created an ofrenda at her home and bed and breakfast, as she explained the symbolism with each step of the creation. Arminda is a Purepecha Indian and I have known her for almost 20 years. She is a delight and very knowledgeable woman.
Now in more then one car, we headed to Cucuchucho on a road with huge drums full of fire to lead out way. This village and cemetary was as if we had walked back 500 years in time. No gringos or gringas other then a few of us. It was a solemn place without the crowds. Very quietly we walked through, stopping to look at the graves, the families, the old lady in the rebozo and her husband finishing their placement of flowers and food that is placed on top of the grave.
I felt honored to have been able to have visited these sacred places in one of my favorite places on earth - the area of Patzcuaro. It has more of a sacred feeling then any other place that I have gone to experience Dia de los Muertos. If you haven't attended, I hope in your life, someday, you are blessed to have this experience.


Islagringo said...

Very nice series. An incredible experience and adventure. I love that you understand and respect the day.

mdesus said...

Hey do you have contact information for your friend Arminda with the bed and breakfast. I am going there tomorrow (I live in guadalajara, but am of gringo origins), and I don't currently have a place to stay. We are four people.

Babs said...

Thanks Wayne - I enjoyed doing it - but since these were all "old" photos, I had to scan each and every one in - now I understand the simplicity of the digital - never thought I'd say that!

Mdesus - It is highly unlikely that you can find a vacancy ANYWHERE in the Patxcuaro area, but here is Arminda's info - the b&b is Casa Santiago at Ihuatzio and her phone # is (434) 344-0880.