Monday, November 02, 2015

Ofrendas (Altars) in the Jardin - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

My feet hit the floor this morning as soon as it was daylight.  My mission, to get to the jardin and photograph the altars and mandelas, if there were any.

Last night I looked on the webcam and was astonished to see the amount of people in the jardin. I assumed that any altars must have been trampled and it would be doubtful that there would be mandelas because they typically are made out of dyed sawdust, seed and grains or colored sand.

Some loyal people must have gone in the middle of the night and done the mandelas and the huge altar in front of the Parroquia.  I photographed almost all of the altars.  It certainly is not as many as in past years.
Sadly.  It used to be that the side streets were covered in mandelas made with colored sawdust provided by the carpenters of the town.  I did not see one made out of sawdust today.  Then the altars used to surround the jardin on all four sides.  No where near that many this year.  I'm sure it is because of the crowds of tourists now.  Again, disturbing, at least to me.

My own altar never happened.  It has been way too busy to get all the necessary items, the papel picado, the new clothing, the sugared skulls and animals along with the Day of the Dead bread, food among other things.
I have a sorta altar.  It at least has photos of many of the deceased that I think of often.  From my dad and grandmother and mother-in-law to my daughter, my husband,  my dog Flash and my cat Velcro.  In addition I lost a dear friend just recently, and a photo of he and his wife in Paris is displayed. 
Seeing these photos is very cathartic and reminds one of those who are surrounding us at all times.  So, it might not have the salt cross, the bowl of water or favorite foods, but, for me, it conveys the message.

Here are some of the other altars that I photographed this morning to share with all of you.
 This first altar has great significance for me and all the "locals".  The paper man Tambula was the first person most of us talked to when heading to the jardin.  The woman in the blue to the left of the altar is his wife.  She has taken over selling the papers to us on a daily basis.  He, was not an overly friendly man, but oh, my, did he have the most exquisite baritone voice.  When he would bellow out that the papers were there, it sounded like an opera was beginning.  What a great soul.  He was so loved even the Atencion newspaper
 wrote a feature article about him prior to his death.  If you click on the photos on this post, you can see them clearer and in more detail.  I don't know who took the photo of him with the papers, but it is such a treasure. So was he.
 This altar was done by Ecologia, the city department responsible for the environment, the trees and many, many more things.  As I walked up and saw the dead tree up against the wall, I had to look to see who was
responsible for this altar.
 As I looked at this altar I realized it was in honor of the 43 students that perished in the state of Guerrero last year.  The case has not been solved and the families along with the citizens of Mexico are still keeping this horrible crime in the spotlight so that their children will never be forgotten and the perpetrators will be caught.  The 43 were young adults training to become teachers.  Such a tragedy.

 Here is an altar with part of it made with seed and grains.  It's so fascinating to see this done.

 More altars along the back wall of the jardin.  See how large the distance is between altars?  I've never seen it like this before. 
 Then, coming up to the front of the jardin facing the Parroquia, some papel picado has been strung.  It's a lovely sight to see it blowing in the breeze.  I've never been able to see this without wanting to capture it with the camera.  I have taken better photos in previous years.  Not a blue sky this morning.

 This was a large altar in front of the Parroquia which is usually built by the municipal government.  It was sweet to stand there and watch two teenagers sweeping up the seeds and replacing the flowers to their proper places. 
 This was one of the small mandelas made with seed and grains.  Alongside is one of the sun.
Last but not least, up on the band kiosk was white papel picado.  There was no sign to indicate who made this altar but it was all in white.  It was a huge white cross with the items on the altar in white as well.

It is so touching to know that groups and families plan these ofrendas.  I remember being in Tlacala one year and seeing so many poignant altars not to family members, but the town had decided to honor the people who had died trying to cross the US border.  It was very unsettling but well done.

I've traveled all over for Day of the Dead. Jalpan and the Sierra Gorda where the altars are covered with orchids.  To all the villages in the Sierra Gorda where Father Serra built the five churches.  To Puebla, Huacachula to see the satin altars that it is famous for along with other villages in that area.  I've not been in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead or Chiapas and that must be next.  My most memorable of all however has always been Patzcuaro and the villages and cemeteries surrounding the lake.

If you go to the search area on this blog, you could put in Day of the Dead or altars or Patzcuaro, I assume and see the many photos I've posted in the past of the places I've traveled for Noche de los Muertos and Dia de los Muertos.

It is a beautiful tradition steeped in much symbolism from the Aztecs and very pre-Hispanic.  Originally it was celebrated in the spring but when Catholicism came with the Spaniards, it was moved to coincide with All Saints and All Souls day.  However, the people of Mexico that I know do not associate it with Catholicism
In a way, its like our Thanksgiving in the USA when everyone comes home for the feast.  The only difference here is that it is the spirits of the deceased that are coming home for a feast.  And their families and friends are welcoming them.

Viva Mexico!


Anonymous said...

Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.


Kim G
Boston, MA
where we have no altar, but lots of fond memories.

Peter Kouwenhoven said...

While reading this blog post I was remembering the people in my life that have left. Most of them prematurely, way too young including both my parents. I wish I was in Mexico now to experience this ritual, but I must be patient and wait a few more weeks, too late for the day of the dead, but with time to spare for other rituals and festivities...

Babs said...

Kim, maybe you could consider starting a tradition and making an altar next year!
Plus there must be a Hispanic neighborhood in Boston and I bet you would have found all kinds of festivities yesterday. As I went down the street past the large Panteon yesterday, it was very touching to see all the families leaving the cemetery in a steady stream.

Peter, I do find it a heartwarming tradition that does remind us of those that have already gone but that there spirits do come to visit us from time to time. And, you are so right, there will be many rituals and festivities while you are here! The Posadas at Christmas are so beautiful to see and participate in along with all the excitement of New Years and Three Kings Day. Plenty for you to experience.