Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day of the Dead - San Miguel de Allende

Since I have traveled to so many places in Mexico for Dia de Muertos, I decided I'm going to start a series for all of you to enjoy. In the coming days I'll have photos from Tlaxcala, Puebla, Huaquechula in the State of Puebla, Jalapa in the Sierra Gorda and of course the lake villages of Michoacan. It is a magical journey for me to remember these travels with the photos I took with my "old" camera!
San Miguel, like every large and small town in Mexico celebrates this season in many ways. One of the most interesting to me is the mandelas on the streets around the jardine that are meticulously made with colored sawdust. The sawdust is saved by all the carpenters in and around town for the year. Who colors it, I have no idea. I love the cut paper, papel picados. They remind me of the prayer flags seen all over Nepal, Tibet, etc. Could it be there is a connection?

I saw a short documentary on Japan recently and they have a day very, very similar to the Day of the Dead with incense, candles, flowers and prayer flags. I was astonished. Has anyone in this reading audience ever attended that event in Japan? I would love to know more about it.

I don't go to the big cemetary (panteon) here for "the" day, because it is so crowded with tourists, but rather enjoy the serenity of the small and oldest cemetary where, often, I have been one of only a few people. The cemetaries here are somewhat different as I have never seen families sitting by the gravesides as I have in other areas of Mexico, which, to me, is part of the imagery. BUT, it is interesting to see all the work and artistic ability of the people.

Four years ago, five months after my daughter died, I made this altar in memory of her and invited all my friends to come and share it with me. Many friends came and added flowers or candles or sugar skulls. It was VERY cathartic. While making the altar I was so emotional I wasn't sure I could complete it. It was up for about a week. I did a lot of research about what was to be there - a blanket to keep the spirit warm, water to quench their thirst from their journey, favorite foods and mementoes, candles for the light and flowers for the scent to show the way. The many photographs were there for me to have as rememberances.

Several things happened during the time this altar was here - for one, Flash, my dog of 16 years slept every night by the altar. Heretofore Flash ALWAYS slept on my bed, at the corner, with me! And during the day, there she was on the corner of the quilt.........I was astonished. Little did I know, when I took this photo and had this experience, that three weeks later Flash would be killed here in San Miguel by a bus.

During this time I found it very calming to walk by and look at the things that I had placed on the altar for Jennifer. I found myself sitting and reminscing of good times. I also found it comforting that her spirit would come to be here, although I know her spirit is here more often than that.

My observation is that Dia de Muertos is several things in Mexico. It IS as important as Independence Day and Semana Santa (Easter) and Christmas. I would say it is the Mexican Thanksgiving for the souls and the families. I LOVE to experience it - it is solemn, yes, but is is also joyful! This year my altar will include those people who have left that I loved, oh, and of course, Flash who was such a dear companion for all those years.


Calypso said...

Amiga - sorry to read about your daughter and your dog ;-(

No one's child should die before them - very sad.


Billie Mercer said...

Barbara, I love the Day of the dead altars in Mexico. Everytime I see one I feel the love of family. Calypso, is right. I'm so sorry that you lost your child...yes, I know she was an adult but you and I know that they are always our children. Love ya.

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- Thank you for starting this series -- especially, on such a personal note. The connection to the tradition is that much more meaningful.

Frankly Ronda said...

Your alter for your daughter is just lovely. I too am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.

Husband and I have had several conversations on how we will take part this important Mexican holiday. Not sure yet ...

Babs said...

Thank you all for your kind words. It is amazing that the human spirit survives life's tragedies.

The Mexican spirit has been a great teacher for me of the "cycle of life" and that it doesn't end with death. Very, very meaningful. said...

So glad you are starting this series. I love the offrendas and have created some here for me with pictures of departed loved ones. I always put some chocolate there for my mom. And a picture of Charlie, the best dog ever. I have just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle...most awesome book about dogs and families. I will save it for you if I can bear to part with it.