Re: Altar Exhibition for Día de los Muertos

[Archives Home] [Zihuatanejo Ixtapa Home] [Zihuatanejo Ixtapa Troncones Message Board]

Escrito por Laura desde ( el día viernes, 21 de octubre, 2005 a las 15:45:30 horas :

En respuesta a: Altar Exhibition for Día de los Muertos escrito por ZihuaRob desde ( el día miércoles, 19 de octubre, 2005 a las 11:55:32 horas :

Hesitating to add to an already long thread... I am moved to speak to this topic.

Rob, as usual, is right on target on an important issue.

Though it's true that culture is constantly changing as Stew pointed out, we can (do) have an effect in the direction of that change. The more awareness we can have of the cultural base, the more intentional we can be in the kind of influence we have by our presence. Though we can't control other inputs of influence, we can at least control our own. And that can make a difference - especially with this amazing Internet vehicle of communication which Rob so kindly provides - in this case.

Here's one opinion on this Halloween in Mexico topic:

It's a concept that has arrived - if in a tattered, vague, confused form. There is actually a meaningful connection between the rite of Halloween as practiced in the north and the rites of the Day of the Dead as practiced here traditionally (though less and less in fact as modern life diffuses old traditions all over.)

If the 'new' cultural influence has no connecting point of reference to the 'old', it can create confusion, superficial distortions and manipulations in it's application. As in ... giving candy to kids on Oct 31, in areas of Mexico where there is no explanation that makes it meaningful for them, resulting simply in the cultivation of begging by kids on Oct 31. This can cultivate a distorted image of Gringos, begging, greed and a further distancing from a meaningful rite in either cultural tradition.

I personally think it's best to leave it alone unless you are in a position to make it meaningful - in connection to the rites of this culture.

The concept of 'Halloween' arrived in La Barra for the first time- suddenly a few years ago the evening of Oct 31 at 7 pm as I arrived home very tired from running errands. There was a crowd of village kids in front of my door waiting for me excitedly so we could 'have Halloween'?

Some already had their faces painted (beautifully in fact) as ghouls. All they knew was that Halloween involved dressing up in costumes of ghouls and getting candy. They wanted me to explain the details and lead the way.

There was no getting out of this so here's what I did, totally improvised. I told them we would have a Halloween procession but first they would listen to my stories and we would make our first community Day of the Dead Ofrenda in La Barra. They agreed as they love to hear stories anyway.

I told them the story of Halloween in the US... exlaining what it was about... and that it was connected very much with the old traditions of Day of the Dead here in Mexico (which these kids in La Barra had not practiced in their lifetime and actually knew little of.) I told them the story of the Hungry Ghosts.

I told them that in the US we seem to have gotten away from remembering our beloved dead ones proactively as in the Mexican traditions of preparing the party and offering for the dead on their visiting day ahead of time. Therefore our dead ones are hungry... for that attention ... and have become 'Hungry Ghosts' who arrive for their visit once a year as hear in Mexico but in th enorth, they must go door to door and demand the feast (treat) and threaten to reek havoc if they don't get it...'Trick or Treat'. Our children act out this rite by dressing up and going door to door inplace of the ghosts themselves.

The kids understood that perfectly. We made our ofrenda and talked about our dead ones (all the kids had some, interestingly). Then we set out on our promised first 'Halloween' prosession but with one change in the usual Mexican version of the chant which is simply, "Queremos Halloween!" to collect offerings for our Hungry difuntos.

At my suggestion, we said, "En honor de los difuntos, queremos Halloween!" while marching like zombies with arms outstretched (being the hungry ghosts having to demand their feast which the people in fact had not left out.

The people of the village of course were completely unprepared! It was very funny. We went all around the village streets and stopped only at the stores and I quickly explained to each storekeeper that I would pay them later if they gave candy today... and quickly or they would have a riot on their hands. Each storekeeper did the right thing and truly it was fun for the whole village.

When we arrived back at the Children's Library (my house at the time) I told the kids to remember that the candy was first for the Difuntos/the Hungry Ghosts and that we must honor them by leaving the candy for them to enjoy first on our ofrenda - and not be greedy thinking only of ourselves. THUS connecting/combining the two traditions.

I told them that, later, we would enjoy all the candy in a big party for all the kids on the evening of November 2... the traditional time to finish the Day of the Dead ofrendas and party with the leftovers. We had that party and neighbors helped. It became a community event that the kids look forward to each year. It also stimulated the resurgence of the Day of the Dead Ofrendas with others in the community. The Primary school and the Kinder now have wonderful Day of the Dead ofrendas on display ahead of Oct 31 and other individual families have put ofrendas out.

We always remember that it's all about remembering our ancestors and our beloved ones who have died...talking about them, remembering, looking at photos etc, with fun and a party... lots of goodies. But first giving to them, remembering them, remembering what is important - not just succumbing to a free-for-all of empty greed and meaningless consumerism, perhaps always a temptation in the modern world.

Hasta pronto,

Follow Ups: